Saturday, February 28, 2009

GLBT Resources Needed in Venango County

A sad story hit the news in Venango County this week and is reverberating in the region. A teacher is accused of an improper relationship with her 16 year old female student. Comments from those close to the situation indicate that the teacher was trying to be a mentor and role model.

Mentors and role models for GLBT people in Venango County are sorely needed. This teacher is certainly not a bad woman but rather suffered from a lack of resources herself and made poor choices.

Venango County needs healthy resources for GLBT people - youth and adults!!!

We need counselors, support groups, and healthy social outlets.

The only resource available in Venango County is the extreme Christian Ex-gay fix.

The result of that approach is adults who have learned to hide their true emotions trying to fit into a role that is not true. Eventually, that often leads to poor relationship and life choices that are emotionally unhealthy.

The longer Venango County ignores, isolates and chastises GLBT people, the more we will experience emotionally disfunctional situations involving GLBT people. This is a symptom of a systemic problem here.

Where are the GLBT professionals in Venango County? There are many. They are running businesses, working at the hospital, working in many roles in local companies. They are here but they do not feel safe to congregate, to organize and to mentor.

And even more sad, the best and the brightest GLBT people left this area long ago knowing they could lead happier, healthier lives elsewhere.

So, Venango County - are we going to continue to drive good people away? Are we going to ignore the needs of a part of our community? Or are we going begin to build a safe and healthy community for ALL who live here?

A Strong Statement... For My Wife

Kate Fleming often dedicated her work to her wife. Last Thursday, however, it was Charlene Strong’s turn to pay tribute to her late partner with the premiere of the documentary For My Wife in Los Angeles.

By Rhiza Dizon for The Advocate:

Kate Fleming often dedicated her work, simply, "to my wife." Last Thursday, however, it was Charlene Strong’s turn to pay tribute to her late partner with the premiere of the documentary For My Wife in Los Angeles.

A collaboration between Strong and filmmakers David Rothmiller and L.D. Thompson, the documentary follows the aftermath of an extraordinary yet all-too-common scenario for same-sex couples: A woman is prevented from seeing her dying partner in her hospital room. It's a nightmare too horrible for most couples to imagine, but it happened to Strong on December 14, 2006.

On that evening, a torrential rainstorm flooded the Seattle basement of Fleming and Strong’s home. Fleming, an award-winning audiobook narrator, tried to retrieve equipment from the basement studio but became trapped by the rising waters. When a rescue team finally freed Fleming, she was unconscious and rushed to the hospital. Without legal standing as her spouse, Strong was denied access to Fleming by a social worker. Fleming’s sister had to be called to give Strong the necessary permission to be with her wife in her final moments. To add insult to injury, the funeral director refused to recognize Strong as Fleming’s partner, and instead directed all arrangement questions to Fleming’s mother.

“This was the second time I was being told I was no one,” Strong said.

A month and a half later, Strong gave courageous testimony before the Washington state legislature. Her story was influential in helping to pass the state’s domestic-partnership bill, which provides hospital-visitation and end-of-life decision rights to registered same-sex partners. Strong continues as an active spokeswoman on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and has been appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire to serve on Washington State's human rights commission.

After the screening at the Writer's Guild Theater, Rothmiller, Thompson, and Strong spoke about the documentary and the urgency for the story to be told, especially following the aftermath of Proposition 8. The documentary humanizes the struggle for marriage equality.

"It’s going to take the voice of everyone in this room to fight this battle," Rothmiller passionately urged the audience.

"My story is unique, but it’s not unique in that the fact that every single day people are denied to be with the person they love,” Strong said. “I’m not alone in this issue. It’s about anyone, it’s about anyone who’s ever loved someone. Love speaks louder than anything.” For My Wife was a true testament to that.

The documentary premiered at the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, taking three awards, and is scheduled to premiere in the Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne in the coming months. The screening in Los Angeles was a collaboration between the WGA, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in conjunction with Honor PAC, the Jordan-Rustin Coalition, API Equality, and the the Writers Guild of America-West GLWC.

National Equality Rally - Philadelphia - May 3, 2009

Make History!

Join organizations, grassroots activists and straight allies from across the nation as we demonstrate at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell—the site where the Gay Pioneers launched our movement with protests each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969.

Call on Congress and our new president for:

* Passage of trans-inclusive hate crimes legislation and Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

* Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

* Support for GLBT health issues

* Equal benefits for same-sex families

* Same-sex marriage Equality

As Harvey Milk said: “All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.”


Friday, February 27, 2009

Jane Richey's Ongoing Attacks Against Gays & Lesbians Are A Threat To Venango County's Future

Jane Richey is Station Manager of WAWN, a radio station based in Venango County that is part of the AFA radio network. (The AFA, American Family Association, is an anti-gay extremist organization based in Tupelo, MS.)

On "Looking Through The Community Window," a weekly WAWN production, Ms. Richey (pictured at right) has devoted several recent programs to the promotion of "ex-gay" mythology, giving airtime to dangerous crackpots such as Regina Griggs of PFOX who stirs fear and hatred by claiming, on-air, that people become gay as a result of childhood molestation.

As long as this type of extremism continues unchallenged by local civic, business, political and religious leaders, Venango County will be viewed as a narrow-minded backwater to avoid rather than in which to invest, and its GLBT residents will remain at-risk.

What will it take to overcome the silence?

And who in the area actually supports this type of programming?

Well, for starters, there's WAWN's sponsor, Lighthouse Ministries of Franklin, Inc. and its board of directors:

Pastor David Hampson, President
Jane Richey, V. President
Sheryl Clinefelter, Secretary
Jackie Cokain, Treasurer
Bill Burwell
Ray Hudson
Pastor David Parker
David McCoy
Lee M. Richey
Jim Clinefelter
Jim Pankratz
Diane Gramley

Thursday, February 26, 2009

TWO Demands Family Policy Council of West Virginia Take Down Sniper Ad

Truth Wins Out (TWO) called on The Family Policy Council of West Virginia to immediately remove an online video ad that compares same-sex marriage supporters to snipers targeting families. The goal of the ad is to rally supporters to lobby in favor of amending West Virginia's constitution to prohibit same sex couples from marrying.

"This kind of overheated rhetoric creates a climate where hate crimes can occur," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "We demand that The Family Policy Council of West Virginia apologize and take down this violent ad. This video is reckless, wrongheaded and irresponsible."

In the Federal Bureau of Investigation's latest hate crime report, such crimes based on sexual orientation were ranked third (16%), slightly below religion (19%) and race (52%). The ad is part of a plan to get hundreds of churches across West Virginia to participate in a "Stand4Marriage Sunday'' on March 1.

According to the Associated Press, "about a minute into the video, the crosshairs of a rifle scope appear over the image of a family blowing bubbles." The narrator warns that "same-sex marriage is a closer reality in West Virginia than you may think,'' and that activists are "working tirelessly to define marriage away from God's design.''

The AP also reports that The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, has yet to register as a charity with state officials, though it's reported raising enough to trigger that requirement.

"The Family Policy Council is not above the law," said Besen. "The state of West Virginia has an obligation to immediately investigate and ensure they are following the rules."

Like other attempts to ban marriage in state constitutions, there is evidence that this effort is no more than a sneaky attempt to elect Republicans. The AP story said that both of the council's Web sites were created with the help of, a Georgia firm that says it is "focused exclusively on electing Republicans to local office.''

Such "Family Councils" are often tied to Focus on the Family, an organization that runs the Love Won Out conference that teach homosexuals to "pray away the gay."

"This is a golden opportunity for Focus on the Family to demonstrate their professed love for gay people by reining in their renegade offshoot in West Virginia," said Besen.

Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that defends gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from anti-gay lies. TWO also counters the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

NW Pennsylvania Taking Action: Protect LGBT People from Discrimination Statewide!

from Jake Kaskey of Equality Advocates:

Things are really moving quickly in our efforts to pass an amendment to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Here are some concrete action steps:

1 - It would be wonderful if several of you would step up to help coordinate efforts in NWPA to engage one another through an advocacy committee, of sorts. Obviously I have limited time, and I’d like for several of you to stand up and agree to help outreach into the community and engage people in these important efforts. If you think you can help, just send me an email or give me a call.

2 - Lobby Day and Rally in Harrisburg on March 17! On Tuesday, March 17 we’ll be holding a statewide lobby day and rally in Harrisburg to add even more momentum to passing this bill. If anyone can attend from NWPA, that would be fantastic. Again, I’d like someone to step up for the coordinating committee to assist in setting up perhaps a van or two to come into Harrisburg.

3 - Visit your legislators! To find your state representative’s phone number, just go to, click on Take Action, then use the “Legislator Locater.” Legislators are out of session all next week and will be in their districts, so it would be a perfect time to set-up a time to go talk, locally, with your State Representative.

4 - Finally, a lot of people attending recent Equality Advocates workshop were also a part of many other organizations from throughout the region. If you’re interested in having your organization publicly support this bill, please fill out the attached form and fax it back to me at 215-731-1544.

Thanks for everyone’s support, commitment, and time on these issues — we’re really going to make a huge impact in the lives of thousands of people across the state.

Rock the Dome Lobby Day and Rally Link

Facebook Link

Jake Kaskey
Policy and Outreach Coordinator
Equality Advocates Pennsylvania
1211 Chestnut Street Suite 605
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 731-1447 ext. 14 (o)
(215) 407-5313 (m)
(215) 731-1544 (f)

PFLAG Scholarship

from PFLAG National and PFLAG Erie-Crawford:

Gay? Lesbian? Bi? Trans? Straight Ally?

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) wants to help you pay for college with their 2009 PFLAG National Scholarships!

Now available: Three $5,000 scholarships, three $2,500 scholarships, and up to ten $1,000 scholarships! To qualify, you need to…

* Be a graduating senior entering higher education for the first time in 2009. (If you graduated in 2008 and took a year off you are stilleligible to apply.)
* Self-identify as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) or a straight ally.
* Demonstrate an interest in service to the GLBT community.
* Are applying to an accredited higher education institution.

All completed applications must be postmarked by March 13, 2009.

Application information: All applications must include: Completed application form, One-page essay, High school transcript, One reference & Completed release form

Apply online at and click on Scholarships. Or mail completed package to: Suzanne Greenfield, PFLAG National, Scholarship Application, 1726 M Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036 Contact us locally at PFLAG.ERIE.CRAWFORD@GMAIL.COM or John at (814) 454-1392 for more information or visit: for online information, too.

Not All Happy Families Are Nuclear

A new book chronicles experiments in domesticity.

By Mandy VanDeven for In These Times:

One Big Happy Family shows us that healthy families come in all configurations.

In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy wrote “all happy families are alike.” He was wrong.

In One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love (Riverhead, February), we meet 18 families that could not be more different from one another, each demonstrating that healthy families come in a variety of configurations.

Rebecca Walker, the book’s editor, describes in the introduction her process in choosing these extraordinary pieces, writing, “I was looking for stability, complexity, longevity and overall happiness. When I saw those four elements in a family, no matter what it looked like, I paid closer attention.”

Walker is no stranger to nontraditional families. Her own childhood was spent being passed back and forth every two years between her father’s home in New York and her famous mother’s—Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple—home in San Francisco. She has said the experience left her longing for the “stability” that was absent in her life.

In the introduction, Walker writes about her romantic relationships and how the birth of her son made her realize the responsibility she had in filling the void within herself, as well as in figuring out what she wanted her own family to look like: “Our only option is to think deeply about every step, move forward with discipline and an eye toward longevity and the greater good, and have faith that we have done the right thing. If 10 years pass and our family is thriving, we know we’ve made good decisions. If 10 years pass and it’s falling apart, well, we can credit our decisions for that, too.”

The challenge of any anthology is to represent the topic while maintaining the reader’s attention and not spreading itself too thinly by attempting to cover everything there is to say on the matter—a challenge often unmet in a collection of so many authors’ stories that vary in technique, tone, intention and perspective. The purposeful placement of each work and the personal narrative format create a continuity that allows the reader to move seamlessly from one story to the next, while the topical and stylistic variety maintains interest.

The anthology begins with what some may consider the book’s most radical piece, Jenny Block’s “And Then We Were Poly.” Instead of Block approaching her polyamorous lifestyle as one on the fringe, she normalizes her relationships with her husband and girlfriend by pointing out the many ways in which they mimic monogamous couplings, addressing the questions she has no doubt been asked numerous times: How did you decide to be polyamorous? Does your husband get jealous of your girlfriend? How do you explain your relationships to your daughter?

Block doesn’t get bogged down in the different types of poly arrangements, and she’s not proselytizing, either. She simply speaks her piece and lets the reader sort out the rest.

The need to give priority to open communication and honesty—with one’s self and others—is a recurring theme throughout the book. Such honesty can facilitate a broken heart, as is the case in asha bandele’s “Woman Up.” bandele tells the story of how she fell in love with, and married, a man in prison, later giving birth to their child. She writes with raw sincerity about the wounds she carries, knowing that her maternal joy is a constant reminder of her husband’s forced absence from both her and their daughter’s lives.

In “DJ’s Homeless Mommy” and “Sharing Madison,” Dan Savage and Dawn Friedman recount, respectively, their experiences as parents of adopted children. Both write about the challenges of maintaining a relationship with their child’s birth mother—in Savage’s case, a homeless-by-choice street kid, and in Friedman’s, a 19-year-old college student who did not want a child to derail her dreams. The authors also relay the mistakes they make in coming to terms with their role as the child’s parent.

For example, when Savage and his partner explain to their 3-year-old son that the reason his birth mother smells badly is because she doesn’t have a home in which to bathe or wash her clothes, they quickly learn the meaning of “age appropriate information,” as the child reacts with panic for his birth mother’s safety.

In “Home Alone Together,” Neal Pollock writes a hilarious piece on the domestic division of labor between him and his wife—from who washes the dishes to who cooks dinner to who takes care of “the kid.”

Pollock’s humorous explanation of his family’s hodgepodge arrangement stands in stark contrast with Marc and Amy Vachon’s methodically 50-50 split in duties in “Half the Work, All the Fun.” (Yes, they even co-wrote the essay!)

Other noteworthy stories are written by Liza Monroy, Susan McKinney de Ortega and Amy Anderson. Monroy married her gay best friend in Las Vegas to prevent him from being deported to a country where “gay sex was considered criminal behavior,” she writes. For years, she hid information about the marriage from her mother, a foreign diplomat. McKinney de Ortega’s story involves her rejection of middle-class American values in favor of a life in Mexico with a man 15 years her junior. And Anderson’s story tells of her attempt to move from a multicultural family of 12, in which she grew up, to an all-white family of four.

Race is addressed openly in several pieces, most profoundly in ZZ Packer’s anger-inducing essay on mothering a mixed-race son who resembles the child’s other parent. I cringed while reading the ignorant comments of white moms, many of whom assumed that Packer was her son’s nanny, and I sympathized with her disappointment in black people’s praise of his “good hair” and light skin.

The political and social analyses in this book are largely spot-on. The authors don’t shy away from difficult subjects. They simply lay bare their perspectives—which do not always align—to make clear the myriad ways our society’s popular familial construction has been refigured over time.

With the recent passage of California’s Proposition 8—which banned marriage equality in the state—and the ban against same-sex adoption in several Southern states, there is no better time to discuss how the definition of “family” no longer mimics a nuclear model. One needs dig no deeper than the celebrity gossip pages to see how long-term unmarried couples, transnational adoption and divorce are expanding our definitions of love and family.

Walker’s anthology provides a modern look at the relationships Tolstoy depicted in his famous 1877 novel, relationships that were dynamic even then, and that will continue to gain legitimacy through our own lived experimentation with unscripted domesticity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Help For Those Hurt By "Ex-Gay" Programs

New Landmark Publication Offers Legal Options To Those Hurt By The Type Of "Ex-Gay" Programs Promoted By Venango County Extremist Organizations Such As the American "Family" Association of Pennsylvania and "Christian" Radio Station WAWN.

If You Have Been Harmed By 'Ex-Gay' Programs, 'Ex-Gay & The Law' Is For You

CHARLOTTE - Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal released a landmark publication today, "Ex-Gay & The Law", that aims to educate victims of "ex-gay" programs of their legal options. This work was inspired by the many people who have had their lives damaged by programs that seek to "pray away the gay" or use questionable counseling techniques.

"Ex-Gay & the Law helps survivors of ex-gay programs explore their legal rights if they believe they have been harmed," said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. "This groundbreaking publication offers practical legal advice so important questions can be answered."

"We are pleased to help support this publication and to be a part of this effort," said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. "Groups that proclaim to 'cure' gay people of their sexual orientation lack any legitimate medical backing, cause harm, and sometimes operate unlawfully and unethically. If you have experienced any of the scenarios outlined in the last pages of 'Ex-Gay & the Law', we welcome you to contact or Legal Help Desk."

Each year, thousands of men and women enter "ex-gay" programs. Adolescents are even forced into these boot camps by their parents. While their stories differ, nearly all of these individuals have one thing in common: They are harmed by the traumatizing experience.

The American Psychiatric Association says, "The potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self destructive behavior."

Ex-Gay & The Law was released at a press conference in Charlotte to counter Focus on the Family's ex-gay Love Won Out conference. The Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE) hosted the event. CRANE is a grassroots coalition of activists and community members working toward civil and social equality for Charlotte's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community.

Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that defends gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from anti-gay lies. TWO also counters the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life.

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full regonition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

Download Ex-Gay and the Law

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Great Shame of Hatred - We Will Have Equal Rights In This Great Nation

Surprise! Anti-Gay Forces Work to Regain Influence

"Religious" conservatives fear Congress will advance gay rights legislation

By Chris Johnson for the Washington Blade:

Anti-gay conservatives are increasing their rhetoric and activities because they fear public officials are more likely than ever to act on pro-gay initiatives.

That’s the perception of at least one activist, who said he’s noticed an upswing in the ferocity of opposition to pro-gay initiatives now that social conservatives have lost power on the national stage and may be unable to stop lawmakers from approving measures like hate crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said opponents of gay rights are “lying and spreading misinformation in greater ways than they ever have before.”

“The more gains you make and the closer your opponents are to losing, the more ferocious they are in the way in which they lash out,” he said. “That is just the nature of social change.”

But Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said even as anti-gay forces use homophobic rhetoric, Americans are becoming more able to see through it.

“Anti-gay activists have continued to recycle the same divisive rhetoric and inflammatory misconceptions in their attack on LGBT people and our families,” he said, “and I think more and more people are seeing a contrast between the inclusive, affirming rhetoric of our current administration and the divisive, politics of the past that these groups represent.”

One ill-fated attempt at demonizing gays emerged last week, as a one-hour television special targeting gay rights was slated to air on WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich. The show, titled “Speechless: Silencing Christians,” was promoted as a program that would “reveal the truth about the radical homosexual agenda.”

The opening of the special, which is still available to view online, shows women who suggest they were arrested for “trying to share the gospel.”
Another male speaker decries how “we have compartmentalized where the gospel is allowed to go.” A female speaker says gays “can’t tolerate a story like mine that says … I used to be gay, but with the help of Jesus, I’ve been able to overcome that.”

Grassroots activists in Michigan worked for days to convince WOOD-TV to remove the show from its schedule. Colette Beighley, assistant director of the gay resource center at Grand Valley State University, led the grassroots efforts by spearheading online networking on Facebook and speaking against the special to local news outlets.

On Feb. 11, shortly after HRC issued an “action alert” urging supporters to call the station and oppose the special, WOOD-TV rescinded its offer to air it.

The American Family Association, the organization that produced the show, didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Giuliano said the effort’s success shows that “when our community is vocal and visible … media outlets come to a greater [understanding] of their responsibility to serve their entire community with the public’s airwaves.”

Anti-gay forces on the defense in GOP

On Feb. 12, Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, issued a statement urging Michael Steele, the newly elected chair of the Republican National Committee, to resist giving the Log Cabin Republicans a greater voice within the GOP.

In an appearance on Fox News earlier this month, Steele, who has a history of opposing gay rights initiatives as a former one-term Maryland lieutenant governor, said reaching out to people who support gay rights is “an important opportunity” for the GOP.

LaBarbera’s statement warns Steele that reaching out to Log Cabin may cost the Republican Party supporters in its base.

“Michael Steele and the GOP need to do the math,” LaBarbera said. “It is foolish and impractical to risk alienating millions of pro-family, pro-life, conservative grassroots Republicans to appease a tiny homosexual special interest group with fewer members than the population of Liberal, Kansas.”

LaBarbera told the Blade he issued the statement to Steele because he thinks Log Cabin “is angling to say that it has got the upper hand” with the election of Steele as RNC chair.

“Log Cabin is out of step with the grassroots base of the Republican Party,” LaBarbera said. “When you’re joining the other gay groups in trying to reverse Proposition 8, very few Republicans are going to say that’s a winning strategy for the Republican Party to be behind.”

LaBarbera said he has heard that “hundreds, if not thousands” of calls were made to Steele’s office in support of Americans for Truth’s statement. The RNC didn’t respond to a request to comment.

LaBarbera acknowledged that there was fear among social conservatives because “at least politically, on the Hill, the gay side is stronger than ever.”

Regarding lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, Solmonese said HRC has noticed “increased activity” in opposition to the movement of pro-gay initiatives.

“I think the fact of the matter is, as we become more successful and we’re able to move legislation in a more successful way, either at the state or the [federal] level, we see increased opposition to that movement and we always will,” he said.

However, Solmonese said that it’s “hard to measure an increase” in opposition to pro-gay lobbying efforts because Congress hasn’t been in position to advance pro-gay initiatives until recent years. He said “it remains to be seen” whether members of the far right are going to engage in correspondence with lawmakers and visits to their offices when bills like hate crimes legislation come before Congress.

A number of organizations traditionally opposed to pro-gay initiatives wouldn’t comment on whether they shared a perception that anti-gay rhetoric and activity has increased since the election. Focus on the Family declined to comment for this article and the Family Research Council didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Pam Spaudling, a lesbian who operates Pam’s House Blend, a blog that often tracks anti-gay efforts, said she wasn’t sure if the rhetoric and activity against the gay community has increased, but said she has noticed “a shift in focus” by anti-gay organizations toward more activism in getting anti-gay measures passed.

A resident of North Carolina, Spaulding said there are efforts underway there to encourage the state’s General Assembly to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. North Carolina is the only state in the South that doesn’t have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Monday urging the General Assembly to bring the marriage amendment to the floor for debate, Spaulding said. And supporters of the ban are planning to stage a march near the state capitol and bus people in to Raleigh on Tuesday, she said.

Spaulding said she thinks anti-gay forces are trying to build off the momentum from their victory of passing Proposition 8 in California, which ended same-sex marriage in that state.

“I think they are desperate to have some more wins because, quite frankly, they spent a ton of money getting Prop 8 to pass, so they need to fill their coffers,” she said. “And the fact that they don’t have a hotline to the White House any longer means that they have to increasingly participate in activities that make them highly visible in order to keep the money coming in.”

Spaulding said she didn’t know whether anti-gay forces would succeed in passing a marriage amendment in North Carolina, but she predicted that if the groups are unable to pass any more anti-gay initiatives this year or in 2010, they will fall back on the line that “they are oppressed Christians and that any pro-LGBT efforts are squashing religious freedom.”

“I think that this continued theme of being victimized by the homosexual agenda is their backup plan if the public decides that [it] isn’t important enough to pass any anti-gay legislation,” she said.

Online media used to further anti-gay causes

Anti-gay groups are also making use of online media to advance their positions.

The National Organization for Marriage launched a web site and a group called the DOMA Defense Fund last month to raise money to preserve the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages enacted in other states.

“In the wake of repeated setbacks at the ballot box, and with an increasingly receptive audience in Washington, gay marriage advocates are now seeking to impose same-sex marriage on the entire nation with a single stroke of the pen,” the web site says.

The web site urges opponents of same-sex marriage to tell their legislators to uphold DOMA and donate money to the DOMA Defense Fund to “take this effort from coast to coast with radio and TV ads if needed.”

Solmonese said it’s interesting that anti-gay activists are focused on DOMA because “it’s in a basket of a greater set of things we’re working on.”

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is gay, previously told the Blade that “we’re not even close to being able to” repeal DOMA.

“It almost makes you wonder,” Solmonese said, “are they going right to that because they think that’s going to fire people up more so than if they talked about the immediate things that in fact we are focused on this year?”

Web sites have also been launched to advocate against the approval of relationship recognition bills in various states, where passage in state legislatures seems imminent.

In Maine, where lawmakers are poised to debate same-sex marriage, the Maine Marriage Initiative has launched a web site arguing that, “changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples has very real, and very negative, consequences.” And in Hawaii, where the legalization of civil unions is about to be debated in the Senate, a group has created a web site to protect Hawaii’s “keiki,” or children, against “homosexual marriage in the state.”

Despite these web sites, gay activists view the online presence of anti-gay forces as minimal.

Spauding said anti-gay forces are “not afraid to use the Internet to spread their message,” but added, “whether or not they have a receptive audience — that is questionable.”

“This is about energizing the base activists on their side,” she said. “I think they’re just throwing everything against the wall at this point.”

Solmonese agreed that “social conservatives have been behind the ball” in exploiting online media.

“I think that most people agree that that’s a generational issue,” he said.
“New forms of communication — whether it’s social networking or cell phone technology — those are things that tend to be used more by younger people who tend to be more supportive of LGBT issues.”

And how should gays respond when opponents speak out against them — be it through television specials, activism or online media?

Solmonese said anytime that occurs, pro-gay forces need “to call the other side out” and “do whatever it takes it make sure that we counter those lies with the truth.”

“That’s what we did in Michigan,” he said, “and anytime we see that happening, that’s what we as an organization have a responsibility to do.”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Evangelical Hypocrisy a Surprise? -- NOT!

Religion and Faith Are Often Used To Promote and/or Justify Bigotry and Discrimination.

But Here's Yet Another Reminder Of The Charade.

from the Religion News Service:

Official Resigns Over Ethical Misconduct

The general secretary of the Assemblies of God, which has several congregations in Venango County, has resigned after admitting to ethical misconduct.

The resignation of John M. Palmer, who had served in the position since November 2007, was immediate.

General Superintendent George O. Wood, the denomination's chief executive, said Palmer "confessed to a one-time incident that involved ethical misconduct and an inappropriate interaction with a woman that did not involve any physical intimacy," the church's News and Information Service reported.

The executive presbyters are expected to appoint an interim replacement for Palmer to serve until the General Council, the organization's major biennial meeting, in August.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

transACTION: New Transgender Education Resource for Churches

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 — The Institute for Welcoming Resources (IWR), a program of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, today announced the release of transACTION, a new curriculum designed for churches and religious institutions to help congregants and members understand and welcome transgender persons into their congregations and faith settings.

“Too often transgender people looking for a place to worship can’t find one to call their spiritual home because most congregations and religious institutions are not ready to welcome them as their companions in faith,” says the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Institute for Welcoming Resources and faith work director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Yet, many transgender people of faith are searching for the same things that other believers want: a loving community where worship and working for equality and justice are the focus of their faith experience.”

transACTION is designed to help churches and institutions address this issue of understanding and welcome by providing step-by-step training about the needs, apprehensions and fears of transgender people — as well as the wealth of gifts and graces they bring — while responding to the concerns of the church or religious institution.

The program can be used in three sessions: How Do We Get to Understanding, How Do We Get to Acceptance, and How Do We Get to Welcoming. All sessions include discussions and activities to go along with the information provided in the curriculum.

“We tried to make this a learning experience that would go beyond just the basics of gender identity and gender expression in order to give participants an understanding of the issues and concerns that transgender people have when trying to express their faith and spirituality in a church or any religious setting,” says Barbara Satin, author of the curriculum and a transgender advocate around issues of faith and aging.

transACTION is available for download from the Institute of Welcoming Resources Web site at There are two versions of the program: a leader’s version and a participant’s version.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cool Organizations: ARTS Oil City

Oil City, PA, birthplace of the oil industry and former headquarters of Standard Oil, Quaker State, and Pennzoil, is a town in northwestern Pennsylvania built by millionaires -- and abandoned ten years ago for the richer oilfields of Texas. It is in the process of re-inventing itself, and the core of a lively and committed arts community is growing in Oil City's distinctive turn-of-the-century buildings.

With urban markets in Erie, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo in easy reach, more and more artists are becoming small-town transplants -- and small towns like Oil City are becoming vibrant centers of creativity.

"I moved to Oil City in 1996 because I could buy a house here for less than a year's rent in Boston -- and because I found a great combination of small town living and city amenities here," says Joann Wheeler, the artist who is heading up the Oil City arts revitalization effort. "The area boasts an airport, a new regional medical center, safe schools, a branch campus of Clarion University, fine community theaters, a thriving music scene, excellent libraries, beautiful, affordable Victorian homes, and a well-equipped arts center and gallery, all in a breathtaking rural setting of wooded hills and pristine waterways."

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Would Jesus Discriminate?

A Liberating Word, sent to us by Rev. Steve Aschmann of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie:

Matthew 8:5-13

This passage describes how Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion. It is a scandalous miracle that speaks volumes about Jesus’ compassion.

First, it was outrageous that he responded to a request to help a commander of the enemy soldiers occupying and terrorizing his own country. Secondly, this request came from a gentile; that is a non-believer. Thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, is the implied relationship between the Centurion and his “servant.”

Episcopal Priest Tom Horner was one of the first scholars who dared to make the point that both Matthew and Luke use the Greek work pais to refer to the Centurion’s servant rather than the word doulos, which both writers use in other places when referring to servants.

The implication is that there is a different kind of relationship here. The word pais is used elsewhere in Greek literature to refer to a man’s younger male lover. Many contemporary scholars, including Theodore Jennings at Chicago Theological Seminary, have concluded that this is exactly the meaning that Matthew and Luke are seeking to communicate.

Here, Jesus is asked by a military officer of an occupying army to heal his intimate servant who is paralyzed. The centurion tells Jesus that he doesn’t need to come to his home to perform the miracle. As a person with authority himself, he recognized that Jesus was a person with spiritual authority who simply could give the command and it would be done.

So, did this centurion not want Jesus to come to his home because it was messy? Or had he worked with the Jews long enough to know that entering a gentile’s home would make him unclean? Or was it the relationship that he feared might be scorned by Jesus?

I do not think it was the latter because the centurion is the one who spills the beans. He tells Jesus matter-of-factly what kind of relationship this was. Without this note the readers of the story would have thought it very odd. No powerful military leader would ever have gone out of his way and humbled himself for a mere servant. The identifier is the only thing that makes sense.

Note that far from rejecting this request because it came from a gentile or because of the relationship between the two men, Jesus commends the centurion’s faith, saying, “In no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (v. 10)

People who have been marginalized and excluded have to exercise great faith to come to God when others say they can’t. Here, early in Matthew, we find a stirring example of how that is done: with humility, courage and determination.


Michael Piazza
Hope for Peace & Justice

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cool Organizations: Pennsylvania Diversity Network

Fostering strength and vitality in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community, the Pennsylvania Diversity Network provides news, information, presentations, health programs, events and other services in the Greater Lehigh Valley, including Lehigh, Berks and Northampton Counties and the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Reading and other areas of Eastern Pennsylvania.

Check it out HERE.

Perhaps we could do something similar here in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rock the Dome: Pennsylvania Equality Rally -- Save the Date!

Here's a Hot Tip from our friends over at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents:

The topic is LGBT equality.

The date is March 17, 2009.

The place must be the State Capitol in Harrisburg.

Buses will depart Pittsburgh around 7:30 AM and return by 8:00 PM.

Stay tuned for more details, but so far you've got a mini-advocacy training, free lunch, rally and a chance to meet with your state elected officials.

Take a day off, bring the kids and stay tuned for more details.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Love For All

True Love Is Too Beautiful To Be Hidden Away

Hate Moves To Facebook - Anti-Gay Extremist Group Seeks Friends

by Jon Ponder for Pensito Review:

Don Wildmon, the leader of the Mississippi-based, virulently anti-gay group, the American Family Association, joined Facebook recently, and has sent an email blast to his followers urging them to sign up so that they can use the social networking platform as an outlet for propagating hatred and intolerance of gay people.

“I have joined Facebook. Please join me on Facebook and become a friend of AFA,” reads the email’s headline. In the body, Wildmon explains what Facebook is and hints at how his followers can use it to promote the homophobia agenda:

Every day new technologies are emerging on the Internet. For several years now Internet “social networking” has been the preferred choice of many for keeping in touch with friends and family. From Yahoo! 360 to MySpace to Facebook, people of all ages are enjoying quick, easy, and inexpensive ways of communicating with others near and far. And best of all it’s FREE!

I have joined Facebook. I hope you will join, too, and become a friend of AFA. Facebook allows users to send and receive emails, add comments, post photos and videos, share links, and join groups or causes. You can also learn about the people you meet or would like to meet. And you can network with like-minded people concerned about America’s moral decline. Once signed up, you can invite your family and friends to visit or join your homepage. You can also search the entire Facebook site to see if relatives, friends, acquaintances, and classmates are already members. Facebook is informative, fun, and easy to use. There simply is no reason not to join!

Take Action!

It’s likely that most Facebookers are not familiar with the AFA, which is among the wealthiest of the groups that raise money based on gay-hate mongering. In fiscal year 2006, the last year for which figures are available, it claimed net assets of $37 million. The AFA generates almost all its revenue in advertising campaigns designed to raise the specter of hatred of gay people, mostly among less educated, low-income whites.

The AFA is known for its “off with their heads” approach to boycotts. It even targets companies that exercise free speech — and free enterprise — by marketing to gay consumers. The list of companies boycotted by AFA is a who’s who of American brands, including 7-Eleven, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Airlines, American Girl, Blockbuster Video, Burger King, Calvin Klein, Carl’s Jr., Clorox, Crest, Ford, Hallmark Cards, Kmart, Kraft Foods, S. C. Johnson & Son, Movie Gallery, Microsoft, MTV, Mary Kay, NutriSystem, Old Navy, IKEA, Sears, Pampers, Procter & Gamble, Target, Tide, and Walt Disney Company.

The group is not just opposed to gay marriage, it even attacks companies that provide partner benefits for their employees:

[The AFA asks]”Christian consumers”to think twice before they patronize companies that support the homosexual agenda.” AFA lists major corporations that have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation or that offer domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples… “One company losing five to ten percent of its sales will send a clear message to every company in America,” offers Don Wildmon. AFA attacked Kraft Foods (owner of brand names Post, Oscar Meyer, and Maxwell House, among others) for the company’s support of the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.

Facebookers should know that, like all anti-gay groups, AFA purports to base its anti-gay agenda on the Scriptures. But not only is using the Bible to justify organized hate campaigns a bizarre construct, it also requires a mind-bendingly selective reading. The Bible does condemn homosexuality in a few obscure references, but, in the Old Testament, it classifies it as an “abomination,” a class of sins that also famously includes eating shrimp, lobster and ham, as well as burning incense, cheating at business, women wearing pants, haughtiness, lying and improperly covering one’s poop in the desert. among other infractions.

At the same time, anti-gay Christians selectively ignore sexual sins that the Bible decries much more frequently and fervently than homosexuality, including sex between unmarried people, which it calls “fornication,” and, in particular, adultery. Adultery, unlike homosexuality, is prohibited in the Ten Commandments — the only Old Testament laws that Jesus did not rescind with his New Covenant.

In the real world, adultery, unlike gay marriage, is a real threat to “traditional” marriage. Adultery destroys families, and is a direct cause of the high incidence of single-parent homes, poverty and a whole host of social ills. Heterosexual adulterers are 100 percent more likely than monogamous gays and others to contract sexually transmitted diseases. Adulterers are, by definition, liars, and there is no doubt that adultery, unlike being gay, is a choice.

But the AFA is mute in opposition to the civil rights of adulterers. It has never opposed the right of adulterers to remarry. It has never launched a boycott against a company that employs adulterers or that gives partner benefits to remarried philanderers. The AFA once forced the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to reassign a reporter who covered education because he happened to be gay, but the AFA finds no problem with adulterous reporters covering education or even with adulterers working as teachers, where they are can recruit children into their sinful, adulterous lifestyle.

When the day comes that the AFA expands its agenda to advocate rescinding the marriage rights of adulterers and denying adulterers’ protections from being fired or evicted because of their status as sinners, we’ll start to believe their antipathy toward gays is purely Bible-based. Until then, the only conclusion to draw is that they are using the Bible to excuse their own personal prejudices and, too often, their own self-loathing — a fact that renders their hatred of gays to be as destructive and scornful as white supremacists’ hatred of blacks and antisemites’ hatred of Jews.

Like all social media platforms, Facebook is largely self-policing, so it will be interesting to see whether the Facebook community will tolerate a hate group like the AFA moving in and establishing an outpost there for its message of intolerance and oppression.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Courage Campaign

"Fidelity": Watch the video and join our letter to the state Supreme Court, signed by over 200,000 people.

Tell the Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8, reject Ken Starr's case, and let loving, committed couples marry. DEADLINE EXTENDED: March 2

We, the undersigned, share President Barack Obama's view that "for too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It's time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect."

Yet, on December 19, 2008, Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund filed legal briefs defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 and seeking to nullify the marriages of 18,000 devoted same-sex couples solemnized before Prop 8 passed.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in this case on March 5, with a decision expected within 90 days. We, the undersigned, ask that the Court enforce the equality promised to each of us by our constitution and invalidate Prop 8. So doing will protect all loving, committed couples in California -- including the 18,000 who said "I do" last year -- and prevent the initiative process from being a tool for stripping vulnerable minorities of precious constitutional rights.

As Americans who believe in the rule of law and fundamental civil rights, we know that Ken Starr and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund's shameful attempt to nullify equal protection and all these bonded unions will be condemned in the eyes of history. We know that, ultimately, love will prevail, no matter how hard they try to fight it.


241,152 people have signed this letter*.

NEW GOAL: 250,000 signers by March 2.

Please add your name now!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's Valentine's Day: Turn Up The Heat!

Despite the discomfort the question is certain to engender, I think it's time to ask it. Persistently and repeatedly.

By Julie Enszer, AlterNet

It's a question I never asked any of my friends or family members even as I was attending weddings and buying gifts (an occurrence more common about 10 years ago when I was in my twenties, but let's not worry about the passage of time.) Now, I wonder, what would have happened if I asked that question? And what will happen if I ask it now?

I never asked the question because it's a confrontational proposition. It immediately points out to people, particularly people planning to get married, that there is a basic disparity in the United States today between gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples. The question also immediately implicates heterosexual people, even heterosexual people who see themselves as allies to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, as having and using heterosexual privilege. Asking it, even innocently, is bringing to light the power differentials at work in the United States today, and drawing lines between who has power and who doesn't.

Despite the discomfort the question is certain to engender, I think it's time to ask it. Persistently and repeatedly. It's my Valentine's Day challenge. I'm asking the question, not only of my friends and family, but more broadly of everyone.

If you are homosexual, I'm asking you to ask everyone you know, "Would you not get married because I can't get married?"

It may be a difficult question to pose at first, but the possibilities that it offers you -- and me -- are enormous. I don't think we can win the right to marry until we have much greater support from heterosexual allies, and we can't get that support until we start asking the questions and expecting answers of trust, support and affirmation.

If you are heterosexual, I'm asking you: Would you not get married because I can't get married?

I'd like to know your answer. It seems like a basic proposition of fairness. I can't get married, so you shouldn't either, but you can because your marriage, to an opposite-sex person, is sanctioned by the state and by our country. That's unfair.

How do we address this lack of disparity, this injustice? Well, certainly we can write letters, demonstrate in public, talk to elected officials, the usual strategies for social change in our democracy. I know many of you have been doing just that, and it's helping.

There is a sea change happening of people who understand the significance of marriage for gay and lesbian couples, but it's time that we turned up the heat. It's time that we put our lives on the line. Us queers have our lives on the line everyday -- we can't be married. We pay the price for it literally and figuratively. We live with the consequences of our inability to marry. Now we need our straight allies to join us and not marry until we can.

That's why I'm asking you today, would you not get married until I can get married? I live in Maryland; we're a relatively progressive state -- it's not like I'm asking you to hold out for Mississippi or Alabama or Alaska (though at times I thought Gov. Sarah Palin was going to bring Alaska closer to queer equality that I ever imagined possible). I'm asking you to not get married until I can, legally, in my home state of Maryland.

When will that be? I don't know; I'm asking you to gamble with me. Or if you won't do it for me, chose another close friend of yours who is queer. Your Aunt Laura, your Uncle Jeremiah, your college roommate, the person who cuts your hair, your mentor, your cousin, your best friend's daughter. Any queer person will do, and by all means, if it makes your commitment easier, choose someone you know and care about.

It's actually not about me, it's about the principle. It's about fairness; if I have to wait for people to vote, either in the legislature or at the ballot box, on my right to marry, you can wait, too. It's about allies in this struggle.

If your answer is yes, thank you. Now please turn around and ask the question of others: "Would you not get married until gay and lesbian couples can get married?"

Perhaps through this simple question we'll incite a revolution -- either hasten marriage for gay and lesbian couples, or through our collective resistance render any sort of marriage meaningless. There are many potential outcomes.

It all begins with a simple question: Would you not get married until I can get married?

Let's ask it and talk about the answers.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet living in University Park, Md. You can read more of her work at

Quotable Quote

"‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ doesn’t just repress gays and lesbians, it represses everyone. It perpetuates the idea that in order to be a stable society, we have to lie to ourselves."

--Historian Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.

In this bracing new account, Frank shows how “don’t ask, don’t tell” has utterly failed.

Check out Battling the Military Ban in The Advocate.

Friday, February 13, 2009

MILK Is Coming To A Theater Near Us!

MILK, with Eight Academy Award Nominations, is a briskly-told, warmly humanistic and stirring portrait of inspirational gay activist and politician Harvey Milk who was assassinated in San Francisco in 1978.

This powerful film is now playing at Tinsletown USA Theaters in Erie, and will be playing at The State Theatre in State College Feb. 20 - 26.

Learn More About The Film and the Life of Harvey Milk HERE.

The Fight For Gay - Straight Alliances

The Issue Is Far From Over In Venango County!

by Emma Ruby-Sachs for 365Gay Agenda Blog:

When I was in law school we participated in a mock court competition where the issue of gay straight alliances was in question. It was based on a landmark decision that had recently come out in favor of GSAs. But the news today illustrates that the question of support groups for gay students in high school is far from settled.

Florida, that lovely state that has been flip flopping on gay rights all year, houses Yulee High School. Yulee has banned the formation of a GSA and now the ACLU is suing on behalf of the students.

Many schools across the country have actually denied all non-academic clubs in order to legally prevent GSAs on campus (the logic is that if all types of a certain speech are banned it does not violate the Constitution - get rid of all social clubs and you get rid of the gays). But every once and a while a school slips up and allows a Christian club or a babysitters club to form. That triggers the constitutional right to set up your own GSA.

But the kinds of clubs do not settle the question.

Many administrators say that they are banning the GSA because gay kids in their school are harassed so mercilessly, gathering them all in one room would create a lightning point of contention and could risk the safety of gay students. The court gives deference to school administrators because they know the specific social circumstances of the school better than a judge in a different city or, in the case of the Supreme Court, a different part of the country altogether. This argument has convinced some lower courts that a GSA is just too risky at this point in history.

Thankfully, the Federal Court disagrees. It thinks that punishing a small group of students because of the intolerant actions of the masses is unconstitutional. Based on this logic, even if the whole school protested classes because of the GSA, the school administrators would be responsible for punishing each of their students before eliminating the gay club.

I think students who establish these alliances are incredibly brave. The courts have documented the kind of violence gay students face in small towns and conservative cities across America and has traditionally supported the students’ bravery.

Now if only we could get the administrators onside….

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Experts Release Groundbreaking Principles on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Human Rights

“Yogyakarta Principles” Call for Action Worldwide Against Discrimination and Abuse

(This press release was issued in March 2007 ... but it's still worth sharing today)

Groundbreaking international legal principles on sexual orientation, gender identity, and international law chart a way forward for both the United Nations and governments to ensure the universal reach of human rights protections. The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity were released today by a group of 29 international human rights experts.

The Principles affirm binding legal standards with which all States must comply. They were adopted by a group of distinguished experts in international law following a meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Among the group of experts are a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN independent experts, current and former members of human rights treaty bodies, judges, academics and human rights defenders.

“Human rights are for everyone, without reservation,” said Sonia Onufer Corrêa of Brazil, who co-chaired the experts’ group. “Yet women, men and persons whose sexuality does not conform with dominant norms face rape, torture, murder, violence, and abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These Principles affirm that human rights admit no exceptions.”

Ms. Corrêa is Research Associate at the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA) and co-chair of Sexuality Policy Watch.

The Yogyakarta Principles call for action from the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations, and others. They are being launched today at events coinciding with the UN Human Rights Council’s session in Geneva, where last year 54 States called for the Council to act against egregious violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

“UN human rights mechanisms have advocated full enjoyment of human rights and full inclusion of all persons in the development process, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics,” said Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, co-chair of the experts’ group. The Yogyakarta Principles are based on the positive development of international law and provide clarity for the needed actions in regard to sexual orientations and gender identity.”

Professor Muntarbhorn is UN Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), and professor of law at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.

“States have the primary obligation to respect, protect, and promote human rights,” said Professor Michael O’Flaherty of Ireland, a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, who served as rapporteur for the experts’ group. “Ending violence and abuse against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity must become a global priority for governments.”

Professor O’Flaherty is co-director of the Human Rights Law Centre and professor of applied human rights at Nottingham University in the UK.

The Yogyakarta Principles address a broad range of human rights standards. They were developed in response to well-documented patterns of abuse targeted toward persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Worldwide, human rights defenders point to violations including extrajudicial executions, violence and torture, repression of free speech and assembly, and discrimination in work, health, education, access to justice, and immigration.

For more information on the Yogyakarta Principles, see the attached overview and Q&A.

The full text of the “Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” is available at:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Straightlaced: New Film and Campaign on Youth and Gender Pressures

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - In the wake of the murder of Lawrence King, GroundSpark is igniting a national dialogue about youth and gender with a new feature-length documentary Straightlaced - How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up.

Straightlaced takes a powerful and intimate look at how popular pressures around gender and sexuality are shaping the lives of American teens. The film proudly showcases the diverse and unscripted voices of more than 50 youth from a wide range of high schools across the country, who speak with breathtaking honesty, insight, and humor about gender roles and the struggle to be who they really are.

GroundSpark is embarking on a national educational campaign with the film, featuring a curriculum for high school classrooms, professional development workshop for educators, community screenings, and media outreach. Screenings have already been scheduled for Wyoming, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Alabama, with more events on the horizon for all 50 states.

Media Statement by Debra Chasnoff, GroundSpark Executive Director and Academy Award®-winning documentary filmmaker:

“Straightlaced shows that gender performance pressures and homophobia have disastrous effects on all youth, no matter how they identify. Students from across the country have shared a powerful and urgent message with us -- the pressures that led to the murder of Lawrence King are being intensely felt by all youth, all day, every day. Our nation’s schools are a tinderbox for this violence to continue, and that is why we are launching a new national campaign today to model the possibility of dialogue and action, offering teens and adults a way out of the constant anxiety and fear and toward more inclusive, empowering relationships.” Debra Chasnoff is available for interviews through the above media contact. She is an experienced media spokesperson who has appeared on outlets from CNN’s Situation Room to Fox morning shows, NPR and PBS.

Learn More about Straightlaced and Watch the Trailer HERE.

GroundSpark creates visionary films and dynamic education campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world. The Respect For All Project, a program of GroundSpark, facilitates the development of inclusive schools and communities that are free from bias and prejudice by providing resources, support and training to educators and youth service providers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Namoli Brennet at Venango Campus in Oil City

Transgender folk artist and frequent speak Namoli Brennet will discuss her journey through gender identity and the roles that gender play in contemporary society.

Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 7:00 PM

Robert W. Rhodes Center Auditorium
Venango Campus of Clarion University

Free and Open to the Public

This event is part of Dare 2 Care, a week-long celebration of diversity on Venango Campus.

More information and directions HERE

(We wonder why there has been no hue and cry from local anti-GLBT extremists Diane Gramely & Jane Richey who raised 'holy' hell about a similar performance this time last year. we can only hope that they'll be in attendance to learn about true humanity and compassion.)

Class: Taboo? Says Who? - Everything You Wanted To Know About Sexuality But Were Too Afraid To ask!

Sex... Most classes about it are educationally boring, but when we talk to our friends, it's secretive or naughty, it's TABOO! Says who?

We find that there can be a balance of humor & education when talking about SEX.

Our torture regimen? We'll cover contraception, STIs, sexual violence, orientations, sexual dysfunctions & sex with disabilities. Most importantly, we'll find humor in it all! Join in the fun:

Friday February 13, 2009 at 6:00pm
Mercyhurst College - Zurn 114
502 E 38th St
Erie, Pennsylvania (Get Directions)

Mariana Simon-Toledo is a Mercyhurst alumni & Erin Moll is a Mercyhurst graduate student in Special Education. Joining them to answer questions & give comments are Dr. Sullivan, English professor & GSAadvisor; and representatives from the counseling department, Mercyhurst college & the community.

Bring a friend or come alone & make a friend! For more information, please contact:

Dr. Sullivan at or Erin Moll at

The Mercyhurst College Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is an RSCO that provides a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental atmosphere for anyone standing for equality, individuality, and pride in oneself. Our goal is to foster a group of people who share the desire to spread a message of tolerance, acceptance, and unity on campus. We welcome all students regardless of their orientation: gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transgender, or those who are still questioning their sexuality. We also support people who do not feel comfortable or ready to "come out" to their peers.

Cool Organizations: Family Equality Council

Family Equality Council works to ensure equality for LGBT families by building community, changing hearts and minds, and advancing social justice for all families.

Learn More HERE.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Should Penna. Enact Marriage Equality / Civil Unions for GLBT Couples?

from Michael Morrill:

Dear Friend:

In September a statewide poll showed that more than 70% of Pennsylvanians now support some recognition of same-sex couples in Pennsylvania.

There is no legislation pending to allow for either marriage or civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in Pennsylvania.

What do you think? Is it time for Pennsylvania's General Assembly to enact equality for Pennsylvania's gay and lesbian couples?

Take our poll today: Keystone Progress

Michael Morrill
Executive Director
Keystone Progress