Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tonight: Lesbians Creating Change Through The Power Of Music

Renaissance City Women's Choir

Tonight, Tuesday, March 31 at 8:00 PM

Edinboro University, Alexander Music Center Recital Hall, Edinboro, PA 16444

Free and Open to the Public


Sponsored by the EUP Women's History Month Committee and the EUP President's Commission on the Status of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender People, and Allies

Reception to follow the event - open to the public.

This is the closing event of Women's History Month at Edinboro University!

Learn more about the Renaissance City Women's Choir HERE.

LBT Women of Erie

"There is only one thing that is stronger than a woman, and that is a group of women, supporting, helping, and befriending each other..."

by Laurie Finch for Erie Gay News:

We now have our own YouTube channel!

We had a great time at Peak N Peek for our LBT Tubing party. It was a beautiful sunny day and though it was a bit brisk, we had all dressed properly and so it was a fun time! We were there the two full hours, and took pics and some videos. Between members and friends and family there were seven of us attending. Hope more can make the next event!

At the March meeting of the “LBT Women of Erie” at Presque Isle Gallery we had two new women attend. It’s always good to see more faces involved because those new faces bring fresh ideas and the possibility of a new friendship increases as well!

We discussed the “business cards” to hand out when one of us does a random act of kindness. We decided that the cards should read: “You have just been helped by a member of the gay community”.....”You’re Welcome!” We felt that “gay community” was a better choice then “lesbian community” because it is inclusive of the whole community and gives the receiver a feeling that there are many more of us out there who would have offered help as well, not just the person who helped, then and then gave them the card. We feel it would be a positive way to show that we are all caring helpful people who do go out of their way to help strangers we come across on a daily basis. The design for the cards is still not set in stone, but we have a couple good ones submitted. I think if no more are submitted, we should go with it and see what happens.

Our excursion to Hurry Hill Farms on Maple Syrup Weekend was very enjoyable! Five of us attended and the tour was excellent, Jan Woods, who is passionate about her maple syrup making, gave a wonderful presentation right in the sugar shack as we actually watched the process in front of our eyes.There is a new museum there which you can learn alot more about maple syrup making and purchase various items such as syrup, maple cotton candy, maple candy, maple mustard, maple butter creme ( our favorite ) and more! Afterwards we enjoyed a nice brunch and pleasant conversation at Perkin’s Restaurant in Edinboro.

Upcoming events:

Sunday April 5th LBT Women of Erie meeting, at 1 PM (note the time change for this meeting only - gay musician Tim Goss and Jeremiah Clark are performing at 2PM (see “Java Buzz” this issue.) Wednesday, April 22nd we will be attending “Dueling Pianos” at Jr’s Last Laugh Comedy Club in Erie, Pa. The bar opens at 5 pm and pianos begin at 6:30 pm. No Cover, no reservations necessary. We would like feedback on this though, because if there is a better Wednesday date in April for everyone, we can change the date. Pianos IS every Wednesday. So please, drop us a line on http://womynoferie.wetpaint.com/. You can post it on the Discussion Page by adding it to the Dueling Pianos thread. If we have more interest for another date, it can easily be changed, but let’s decide as soon as we can please.

Saturday May 23rd at 11 am we are going to meet at Campbell’s Pottery in Cambridge Springs.They will have a Master Glass Artist, Herb Thomas there creating glass vases, paperweights and other items while you watch. Rain or shine, it is under the pavilion. For more info see: www.campbellpotterystore.com/upcoming-events/. Again, please reply on http://womynoferie.wetpaint.com/ if you plan to attend.

We have several going to each event so far. More info on each event is available on each of our websites.

Also two activities that we can carpool to:

Monday March 30 The Vagina Monologues wil be presented at Allegheny Collge. The Vagina Monologues will be performed on March 30th at 8pm in Shaffer Auditorium in the Allegheny College Campus Center. Is anyone interested in going to see this? We can carpool. They will be selling tickets at the door or you can make advance reservations by emailing Melissa Porter at porterm2@alleghey.edu $3 non-students/$2 students.

And last, but not least: Tuesday March 31st at 8 pm at Edinboro “The Renaissance Women’s Choir: Lesbians Creating Change Through Music” will bring their talents to Edinboro University’s Alexander Music Center on the University’s campus. I would really like us to go as a group and give them our support! Again, please reply at the Women’s Choir Thread on the Discussion Page at: http://womynoferie.wetpaint.com/

Later, Laurie

Check us out online at http://womynoferie.wetpaint.com/ Links to our new Myspace and Facebook pages are on the home page.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Public Officials Perpetuate Homophobia By Refusing To Speak Our Language

This may be more true in Venango County than nearly anywhere else on the planet!

by Robert A Bernstein:

After 20-some years as a non-gay activist for LGBT rights, I have been privileged to see a virtual sea change in society’s attitude toward homosexuality. But I can still be surprised, even shocked, by the residual tenacity of homophobia. And I’m often touched by evidence of the emotional pain it can still trigger.

A current example of the staying power — and know-nothingness — of homophobia is litigation in Nassau County, Fla., where the school board refused to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance in its Yulee High School. In its formal letter of denial, the district superintendent explained that the board was particularly disturbed by the use of the word “gay” in the organization title. The word itself, it seems, was sufficient to blind the board to the fact that the alliance’s mission is to promote understanding and mutual respect, and the well-being of a significant number of its teenage charges.

Such Neanderthal thinking is not confined to the South or rural areas. Almost by definition, by virtue of its high levels of education, income and social sophistication, Montgomery County, Md., is relatively low on the discrimination scale. But even there, homophobia can thrive. As recently as a year ago, for example, fundamentalist groups brought a legal action against the county’s sex education policies, espousing psychiatric treatment to “convert” gay youths.

Jill Karpf, a longtime librarian in the county schools, affirms that raw homophobia persists among significant numbers of teachers, officials and staff.

Karpf, recently retired, served in various elementary, middle and high schools. She recalls one incident that reflects both the persistence and the painful results of anti-gay feelings in a supposedly enlightened school district where — officially — sexual orientation is among the categories of banned discrimination.

A LONGTIME ACTIVIST on behalf of fairness across the board, Karpf filled her library windows and bulletin boards with posters targeting all types of discrimination. One, for example, stated, “In this classroom, all people are treated with respect,” specifically listing people of all races, national origins, ethnicities, ages, mental and physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and spiritualities.

But Jill, though generally not explicit with her students, never concealed her own lesbianism from her colleagues. And at one school, when she requested that the guidance department put a poster in its office window for Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, she was called on the principal’s carpet for a tongue-lashing in the presence of another staff member with whom Jill had always been generally friendly. She also received a demerit on her record — never mind that the poster was a potential antidote to one of education’s presumed major concerns, teenage suicide.

A UNION INTERVENTION ultimately erased the demerit. But what had disturbed Jill even more than the demerit was the failure of the colleague present at her belittlement to speak a single word in her defense.

She would have been disappointed by the failure of any of her fellow staff members to speak up on her behalf. But in addition, this particular man, although married, was generally assumed by most of the staff to be a closeted gay.

When Jill confronted him to ask why he had remained silent, he was unable to answer. Rather, he choked up and tears filled his eyes.

The tears, of course, spoke more eloquently than any words. Whatever his personal predicament, whatever his reasons for marrying a woman or feeling compelled to remain in the closet, the tears told the story of the profound pain and confusion inflicted by cultural bigotry.

Perhaps, like the Nassau County School Board members, he was simply terrified by the mere mention of the word “gay.”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Finally, Some Openings for Fairness & Equality for All

By Reid Wilson for The Hill:

Congress is expected to take up the controversial issues of gay rights and same-sex marriage this year, with gay-rights advocates seeing the best opportunity to advance their agenda in more than a decade.

At least four bills are set to put gay rights at center stage, including a measure to eliminate part of a 1996 law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Hate-crimes legislation is likely to be first on the docket, according to sources, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) set to work with several members’ offices to craft the legislation. Next up is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Though both measures have passed the House before, this year the legislation has taken on a new urgency because supporters think President Obama would sign them into law, said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who co-chairs the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Equality Caucus.

“It’s one thing to go through the exercise of passing a bill through the House. It’s another thing to pass it through the House and the Senate and have it signed by the president,” Baldwin said. “This session is not a dress rehearsal for future sessions. If these bills pass, they become law.”

After years of defeats at the hands of the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, backers of same-sex partnerships and gay rights say they are seeing the pace of progress quicken in recent months.

“There is increased attention from some members of Congress [hoping] to find ways to protect and respect same-sex couples,” said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign. “There’s more conversations heard on the Hill now.”

Once hate-crimes legislation and ENDA are passed, a measure sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. Baldwin and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) that would provide domestic partner benefits to federal employees will hit the floor. They hope to drop the bill next week.

“This is long overdue and I think this is the year to do right by so many lesbian and gay workers with partners,” Ros-Lehtinen told The Hill. “The federal government is the nation’s largest civilian employer, and it’s about time [gays and lesbians] receive these benefits.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) will offer a measure to strike at the heart of the law that hurts the chances of gay marriage the most, though his bill is considered a long shot.

Nadler will move to eliminate Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that defined marriage as the “legal union between one man and one woman.” Opponents argue this is an attempt to chip away at the controversial law.

“Instead of killing the Defense of Marriage Act with a bang, they plan on killing it with a whimper,” said Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council.

Supporters of gay-rights measures are concerned that conservative Democrats will make up a larger bloc of votes than centrist and socially libertarian Republicans who might back the proposals. Baldwin said members of the LGBT caucus have been holding conversations, especially with newer members, and many have been receptive.

“Part of this is generational,” Baldwin said, noting that younger Americans tend to be more accepting of gays and lesbians. “Part of the upside of all these great new members is that many of them are young and they represent their generation’s attitudes.”

House leaders support the measures, but Senate Democratic leadership refused to speculate on when they would be brought up.

President Obama has said he opposes same-sex marriage, but the prospects of domestic partnership legislation at both the state and federal level have improved, according to gay-rights advocates.

In recent years, courts in Connecticut and Massachusetts have ruled in favor of same-sex marriages. Courts in Vermont and New Jersey have required civil unions, while a New York court ordered that the state must recognize out-of-state partnerships.

Marriage or domestic partnership measures are likely to make progress in Maine, Vermont, New York and Washington state early this year, while a similar measure will be introduced in New Jersey’s legislature following the November elections for governor.

Iowa’s Supreme Court is likely to rule on whether same-sex partners should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, a case activists are optimistic about winning.

On the international stage, Obama’s administration has said it would join 66 other countries in signing a United Nations statement calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, something the Bush administration refused to do.

Even some deep-red states are making moves to end discrimination against gays in employment and housing. Bills are making their way through legislatures in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware, along with states notorious for their social conservatism, like North Dakota and West Virginia.

Opponents of same-sex marriage say initiatives defining marriage as between one man and one woman are going ahead in states like North Carolina, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin. “It’s a mixture of both offense and defense,” McClusky said.

The majority of voters still oppose full-fledged marriage rights, and constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage have passed in every state in which they’ve reached the ballot, though it took two tries to pass in Arizona.

Most recently, opponents of gay marriage helped pass a proposition in California defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The proposition is currently before the California Supreme Court, where gay-rights advocates are challenging its constitutionality, though they are not optimistic of the judicial outcome.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Movie Night: HATE CRIME - now on DVD

Robbie and Trey live peacefully in a quiet neighborhood, until an unexpected conflict arises in the form of hostile new neighbor Chris, a preacher’s kid. Blindsided by a brutal attack, Trey winds up in a hospital bed, fighting for his life. Chris becomes the prime suspect, but he has a solid alibi. After he himself becomes a suspect, Robbie desperately attempts to carry out a complex and dangerous plan that will uncover shocking secrets and turn many lives upside down.

A thought-provoking suspense drama, Hate Crime, a testament to the power of love and the damaging consequences of intolerance, is a film by Tommy Stovall, shot on location in Dallas, Texas.

Celebrating GLBT People and Their Families - Symposium at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

from Erie Gay News:

On Saturday, April 4, Edinboro University’s GLBTS alliance, Identity, will be hosting an open symposium celebrating GLBT people and their families, and will feature renowned GLBT activist and author Robyn Ochs. Topics will include gay marriage and gay adoption rights.

Registration begins at 11 AM and the welcome session begins at Noon in Butterfield Hall on the Edinboro University campus. The workshop sessions begin at 12:30 PM, and the keynote address will begin at 5 PM.

More detailed information can be obtained at HERE or by contacting k479405l@edinboro.edu Read more about Robyn Ochs HERE.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Equal Marriage Event at Edinboro University

from Susan Woodland and James Fisher at the Erie Gay News:

Thursday, March 26, 7 PM, Edinboro University Pogue Student Center Multipurpose Room: Same Sex Marriage Panel Discussion.

Same-sex marriage in the United States will be examined from legal, policy, and theological perspectives. With James Daniel Fisher, Associate Professor of Political Science and Board member of NWPA ACLU); Susan Woodland, President, NWPA NOW; and the Rev. Jason Hickman., Presbyterian minister from West Middlesex PA.

The panel will address audience questions after brief remarks. Free and open to the public. Part of Edinboro University’s Women’s History Month events. Call 814-732-2409 for more information

Pro-Life or Pathological and Perverse?

by Wayne Besen:

Signaling a meaningful change from President George W. Bush's disastrous policies, the Obama administration last week endorsed a United Nations statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. The primary opponents of this measure were radical Islamist countries and the Vatican, representing a new unholy alliance across the globe.

The previous day on his way to Africa, the Pope spoke to reporters about the role condoms play in the prevention of HIV. Unbelievably, the Pontiff said they make the epidemic worse.

"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the Pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon, where he began a seven-day pilgrimage on the continent. "On the The Popecontrary, it increases the problem."

Internationally, people were stunned at the Pope's scientific ignorance and indifference to human suffering. Africa, after all, is a continent with more than 22 million people living with the disease. Only thin strips of latex have stopped this figure from rapidly multiplying and leaving behind an even more horrific trail of death.

How many people is this man willing to see die to defend his outdated dogma? How high must the body count be before the Pope is no longer considered pro-life?

French foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier justifiably reacted with exasperation when he said, "While it is not up to us to pass judgment on Church doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life." German officials called the Pope's statement "irresponsible" urged the availability of condoms in Africa.

How ironic that a Pope fixated on stanching the decline of the Catholic Church in Western Europe would declare something so out of touch with the modern world. His unconscionable cruelty has transformed him into crusty relic on the verge of irrelevance.

Appearing on Fox's O'Reilly Factor last week, I debated the Pope's statement with writer Raymond Arroyo. I pointed out that UNAIDS, calls the condom the "single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV." Arroyo responded with a bizarre conspiracy theory saying that the United Nations group was only trying to "protect the government infusion of money to these condom programs that have demonstrably not worked at all."

Then I asked Arroyo point blank: "If all the condoms in Africa magically disappeared, would the number of HIV cases increase or decrease?"

He responded that HIV would decrease if people would model their lives on the Pope's "ideal way in which to live."

In the ideal world promoted by Arroyo, priests would not rape little boys, while getting shuffled around parishes to protect the church. In the real world, the Vatican has spent millions of dollars to pay for child abuse lawsuits. In Arroyo's fantasy world, young people pledge abstinence until marriage. In the real world, studies show that teens taking "virginity pledges" were just as likely to engage in sex - and less likely to use birth control or condoms when they finally did.

It is such wanton disregard for reality and wearing of rose-colored shades to blind oneself from avoidable carnage that define fanaticism. There is something pathological and perverse in the psyche of people willing to do enormous wrong in order to prove their doctrine right.

The history books will not be kind to this Pope. From rehabilitating Holocaust deniers, to rampant homophobia, to fighting against legislation allowing victims of child sexual abuse to sue, "Bumbling Benedict" seems to lurch from one avoidable crisis to another.

As he flails in his attempts to woo Europe and ultimately fails in the West, the Pontiff will increasingly dupe the developing world. His road show will focus on poor countries where people aren't as attuned to the ethical depravity of his unscientific proclamations. Indeed, few people will hear from those suffering after the Pope goes home and they die in silent anonymity - victims of a flawed and fatalistic vision. Far from infallibility, this Pope has failed on so many levels that he has virtually no credibility on matters of morality.

During the show, Arroyo asked me, "What do you want him to do, hand out IUD's and condoms from the Pope Mobile?"

If that's what it takes to save human lives, then the answer is yes. One would think that this is what a man of God would be commanded to do. But, sadly, compassion is out of fashion at the Vatican these days.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stop Legal Discrimination in Pennsylvania!

The bad news:

There is no Pennsylvania law preventing discrimination in employment, housing or accommodations because of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, you can be fired from your job, refused service, or denied housing without any recourse under PA law.

The good news:

Pennsylvania took the first step on March 11 toward making that discrimination illegal.

HB 300, legislation prohibiting discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in housing, employment, and public accommodations passed the State Government Committee in the PA House of Representatives today. Current Pennsylvania law provides basic legal protection against discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog. HB 300 offers the same anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that are offered to other Pennsylvanians.

The work before us:

Governor Rendell has promised to sign anti-discrimination legislation if it reaches his desk, and a majority of the Senate and House will vote to pass it. We just need to get Leadership to schedule a vote.

That's where you come in. Please take a moment to sign our e-petition to House and Senate Leadership asking them to schedule votes on this vital legislation as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hmmm -- Aren't The Right-Wingers Always Saying It's "The Gays In The Military" That Will Destroy "Unit Cohesion?"

The Great Shame

by Bob Herbert for The New York Times:

I had a conversation several weeks ago with a former Army officer, a woman, who had been attacked in her bed a few years ago by a superior officer, a man, who was intent on raping her.

The woman fought the man off with a fury. When she tried to press charges against him, she was told that she should let the matter drop because she hadn’t been hurt. When she persisted, battalion officials threatened to bring charges against her.

“They were talking about charging me with assault,” she said, her voice still tinged with anger and a sense of disbelief. “I’m no longer in the Army,” she added dryly.

Tia Christopher, a 27-year-old woman who lives in California and works with victims of sexual assault in the military, told me about the time that she was raped when she was in the Navy. She was attacked by another sailor who had come into her room in the barracks.

“He was very rough,” she said. “The girls next door heard my head hitting the wall, and he made quite a mess. When he left, he told me that he’d pray for me and that he still thought I was pretty.”

Ms. Christopher left the Navy. As she put it: “My military career ended. My assailant’s didn’t.”

Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing.

New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults reported in the last fiscal year — 2,923 — and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them.

The truly chilling fact is that, as the Pentagon readily admits, the overwhelming majority of rapes that occur in the military go unreported, perhaps as many as 80 percent. And most of the men accused of attacking women receive little or no punishment. The military’s record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it’s atrocious.

Louise Slaughter, a Democratic congresswoman from upstate New York, said: “I know of women victims, women in the military, who said to me that the first response they would get if they tried to report a rape was, ‘Oh, you don’t want to ruin that young man’s career, do you?’ ”

Ms. Slaughter has been trying for many years to get the military to really crack down on these crimes. “Very, very few cases result in court-martials,” she said, “and there are not that many that are even adjudicated.”

The Department of Defense has taken a peculiarly optimistic view of the increase in the number of reported sexual attacks. The most recent data is contained in the annual report that the department is required to submit to Congress. The report says that “the overall increase in reports of sexual assault in the military is encouraging,” and goes on to explain:

“It should be noted that increased reports of sexual assault do not reflect a rise in annual incidents of sexual assault. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in the United States. Estimates suggest that only a small percentage of sexual assaults are ever reported to the police. The department suspects that the same is true for military society as well. An increase in the number of reported cases means that the department is capturing a greater proportion of the cases occurring each year.”

How’s that for viewing hideous statistics through rose-colored glasses? If the number of reported cases of rape goes sky-high over the next fiscal year, that will mean that the military is doing an even better job!

The military is one of the most highly controlled environments imaginable. When there are rules that the Pentagon absolutely wants followed, they are rigidly enforced by the chain of command. Violations are not tolerated. The military could bring about a radical reduction in the number of rapes and other forms of sexual assault if it wanted to, and it could radically improve the overall treatment of women in the armed forces.

There is no real desire in the military to modify this aspect of its culture. It is an ultra-macho environment in which the overwhelming tendency has been to see all women — civilian and military, young and old, American and foreign — solely as sexual objects.

Real change, drastic change, will have to be imposed from outside the military. It will not come from within.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Good News for a Good Neighbor -- West Virginia Gets First Statewide GLBT Advocacy Organization

by Will O'Bryan for MetroWeekly:

Regardless of what the superstitious might say, Friday the 13th was a very lucky day in West Virginia.

''Today, in the State Senate, we passed ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act),'' Stephen Skinner said March 13, referring to Senate Bill 238, now facing a House battle to protect West Virginians against housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. ''We sort of timed our public announcement to coincide with this.''

That public announcement is the one telling everyone that West Virginia now has a statewide organization fighting for GLBT equality: Fairness West Virginia.

Adding that Fairness has already been up and running behind the scenes -- ''zeroing in on lobbying like a laser'' -- Skinner, founder and president of Fairness, says there is more to this new organization than getting things done in the state capital, Charleston.

''To have people who have deep roots in West Virginia self-identify as gay is going to have a huge impact,'' he says. ''That goes back to the politics of being out. If a [gay] 13-year-old sees doctors [and] lawyers being out, then we have made a difference.''

Whatever differences Fairness may make, there is no doubting that there is interest in the nascent organization. A pledge to have 1,000 supporters registered within three weeks of going live has been well surpassed, at least in terms of Facebook buddies.

A more tangible measure of this new force may be its 12-member board of academics, attorneys, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and veterans, many of whom have ties to Washington. Skinner, 40, is among them, maintaining an apartment in the District, though he practices law at his family's firm in Charles Town and resides primarily in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

''Part of the reason I wanted to come back was to make a difference in West Virginia,'' says Skinner, who returned to West Virginia in 2004, after years in D.C. and New York City. With roots in West Virginia at least 250 years deep and a family business to support, there was an obvious pull for Skinner. But he says he's also hoping that Fairness will get a big boost from outside the state as well, offering a nod to former West Virginians who've made their fortunes elsewhere.

Adam Smith, who lived all his life in the same Parkersburg, W.Va., home until he left for college in North Carolina, fills the bill. Today, he's living in D.C., working as the Web-content editor at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He's also a member of the Fairness board.

''I know a lot of gay and gay-friendly people who still feel really tied to the state. We all feel really connected to West Virginia,'' Smith says of his fellow transplants, adding that he also feels a responsibility to not just advance equality in West Virginia, but to work for those who he feels certain did not have as easy a time as he did coming out a decade ago. He was 16.

''I did not have a lot of problems,'' he says. ''I got a few sneers. People would say things, but I was never scared. That's why I'm so interested in Fairness. I was lucky, but I think others aren't so lucky.''

Amanda Marano King, a Charleston attorney, has a somewhat different perspective than Skinner or Smith, or any of her fellow board members for that matter. She may also have her Washington ties -- Georgetown University class of '99 -- but unlike the rest, she's straight.

''I had a second cousin who was gay and struggled with his family,'' King, 32, recalls from her West Virginia youth. ''I remember that being an issue with some of my parents' family.''

King says she was brought onboard through her relationship with a gay student at West Virginia University College of Law, with whom she studied transgender legal issues. That fellow student was Kevin Waldo, who also serves on the Fairness board.

''As a woman, people fought for my rights. There should be no difference,'' King reasons. ''[GLBT equality] is an important, basic, human right. It's of top importance. ... There are West Virginians who've had to leave West Virginia because they don't feel like they have a place in the state.''

While Smith may be one of the state's emigrants, though he makes it back to visit family regularly, it's obvious that like Skinner and King he may one day return to his home state.

''I love West Virginia,'' he confirms. ''The people there are the nicest you'll ever meet. I know all the West Virginia jokes. They're obnoxious, but we take it in stride. We're nice people -- and it's a beautiful state.''

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

from The Christian Science Monitor:

Editor’s note: Over the years, we've run dozens of pieces dissecting the influence of the evangelical Christian movement on American political culture. Most have been critical of its influence -- its leaders' desire to destroy the wall between church and state and turn the U.S. into a "Christian state" -- and virtually all have been written by analysts outside the movement. The piece that follows is a departure. Written by Michael Spencer, who describes himself as "a postevangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality," this essay, which was adapted from a series on his blog, InternetMonk.com, is from the perspective of an insider, a "true believer." We hope you’ll find Spencer’s take informative.

We are on the verge -- within 10 years -- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

What will be left?

• Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. Emphasis will shift from doctrine to relevance, motivation, and personal success -- resulting in churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

• Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

• A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal. This is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.

• The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision.

• Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear.

• Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Can this community withstand heresy, relativism, and confusion? To do so, it must make a priority of biblical authority, responsible leadership, and a reemergence of orthodoxy.

• Evangelicalism needs a "rescue mission" from the world Christian community. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity?

• Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before -- a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate. A significant number, however, may give up political engagement for a discipleship of deeper impact.

Is all of this a bad thing?

Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral. But what about what remains?

Is it a good thing that denominations are going to become largely irrelevant? Only if the networks that replace them are able to marshal resources, training, and vision to the mission field and into the planting and equipping of churches.

Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart? Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.

The ascendency of Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing.

Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development? One can hope for greater unity and appreciation, but the history of these developments seems to be much more about a renewed vigor to "evangelize" Protestantism in the name of unity.

Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. The purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in fine form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church's problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time.

Will it shake lose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? Evidence from similar periods is not encouraging. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success.

The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a "godly society." That doesn't mean they'll focus solely on saving souls, but the increasing concern will be how to keep secularism out of church, not stop it altogether. The integrity of the church as a countercultural movement with a message of "empire subversion" will increasingly replace a message of cultural and political entitlement.

Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, "Christianity loves a crumbling empire."

We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.

We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture.

I'm not a prophet. My view of evangelicalism is not authoritative or infallible. I am certainly wrong in some of these predictions. But is there anyone who is observing evangelicalism in these times who does not sense that the future of our movement holds many dangers and much potential?

Michael Spencer is a writer and communicator living and working in a Christian community in Kentucky. He describes himself as "a postevangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality." This essay is adapted from a series on his blog, InternetMonk.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Local Screening of MILK the movie

His life changed history, and his courage changed lives.

Winner of two Academy Awards, Milk brings to the big screen the story of activist, politician, fighter and icon, Harvey Milk. The film chronicles the last eight years of Milk’s life and his struggles in becoming California’s first openly gay elected official.

See it at the Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center, Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - 2:15 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Click HERE for More Info

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Are You Going To Do To End The Silence? 4/17/09!

Time To Get Ready!

Check Out Day Of Silence Info and Materials HERE.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Wish - for Those of Us in Venango County Too!

Being Gay Is A Gift From God

from Bloggernista:

Being gay is indeed a gift from God. And, the fact that not one, but two, ministers affirmed this on Oprah is amazing.

We too often hear religious leaders denigrating LGBT and attempting to scapegoat us for everything they see wrong with the world.

To have these men state clearly and unequivocally that being gay is a gift from God is something that gay and straight people need to hear again and again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pennsylvania Gays Rock The Dome!

Hundreds of LGBT Pennsylvanians and allies gathered Tuesday at the state capitol to demand passage of a bill that would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or accommodations.

The Value All Families Coalition sponsored the rally, held in the Harrisburg capitol rotunda. Rep. Babette Josephs, chair of the house’s State Government Committee and a longtime gay rights supporter, delivered an impassioned speech in support of the legislation.

"I bet 10 percent of my colleagues in the House don't think they have a single gay constituent," she said. "Over the next few weeks, we're going to show them just how wrong they are."

Josephs also said that given the economic crisis, "the last thing anyone needs is to get fired for being gay."

Joseph’s committee approved the bill 12-11 in a party line vote, with all Republicans opposing the measure. Next, it faces a tough but winnable fight in the house. While Democrats have a small majority, many come from socially conservative parts of the state. The bill's prospects, however, are not good in the Republican-controlled Senate, but Democratic Gov. Edward Rendell would likely sign the legislation if passed.

Supporters, including religious leaders, union activists and politicians, described the bill as a guarantee of basic human rights for all Pennsylvanians and an important message of tolerance to potential residents and investors.

The bill was reintroduced by Rep. Dan Frankel, who brought similar legislation to the house in 2007. Frankel says the bill now stands a better chance of passing because "a lot has happened in Pennsylvania politics. We've gone from a red-leaning state, to a battleground state, to a blue-leaning state." Frankel said the shift is in part due to the increasingly right-wing positions of the state Republican Party, which has alienated some moderate supporters.

This year, the bill has 79 co-sponsors, nine more than the last time around, including five Republicans.

Lost in the crush of media attention over same sex marriage is the fact that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, only 20 states protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Although a number of Pennsylvania municipalities already have such ordinances on the books, "nearly 80 percent of the state’s 12 million residents live or work in communities that do not provide these protections," according to Equality Advocates Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg City Councilman Daniel Miller, the city's first openly gay councilor, says that he decided to run for office "because George Bush was president and Rick Santorum was our senator." But Miller was also motivated to run because of his first-hand experience facing discrimination.

Miller worked as an accountant for a company for five years, only to be fired when his boss found out that he was gay. He says that it took him years to recover economically and emotionally, and that anti-discrimination legislation will ensure that no other young LGBT person has to go through a similar experience. "It's basic civil rights. So many people are afraid to be out on the job. It impacts how you live."

Opponents of the bill say that the protections would force religious institutions to hire gay people against their will and that the law would be the first step down a slippery slope toward same-sex marriage. The Pennsylvania Family Institute sent supporters an action alert asking that they call legislators to oppose a "radical gay-rights bill" and, as a backup measure, to pray for its defeat.

According to the Institute, "laws like this one that are being used as hammers to force Christian ministries and charities to either operate in ways contrary to their faith and doctrine, face fines and/or prison, or cease the ministry work. It will force business owners and landlords to violate their faith and conscience."

But in a statement, Pennsylvania ACLU legislative director Andy Hoover says that the religious right's objections are a smoke screen. "Federal case law, state case law, and the PHRA itself exempt religious institutions from civil rights laws when following the law violates a tenet or belief of the faith."

Neighboring states, like New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, already offer some protections. But the passage of such legislation in Pennsylvania, a state with strong pockets of Christian conservatism, would show that that the nation's political tide is truly shifting in support of LGBT rights.

We Shall Overcome

Groups rally to support state anti-discrimination bill

by Tom Barnes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

HARRISBURG -- They sang "We Shall Overcome," a song made famous during the civil rights marches of the 1960s.

But this time, the several hundred demonstrators gathered in the Capitol rotunda weren't seeking equal rights for African Americans, but equal rights in jobs, housing, public accommodations and other areas for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, a group sometimes called GLBT.

"It's time to end this last vestige of discrimination in Pennsylvania," shouted Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, sponsor of House Bill 300, which would extend employment and housing rights to those four groups.

"We must show that Pennsylvania is tolerant and diverse," he said.

Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, said, "Many legislators don't think that they have any GLBT constituents, but over the next few weeks we will show them how wrong they are."

She urged members of the group to contact legislators and urge support for the bill.

People shouted, "End discrimination now." A little girl held a sign, "My 2 Mommies Deserve Equal Rights."' A man held a sign, "Would Jesus Discriminate?"

Rep. Ron Waters, D-Philadelphia, chairman of the legislative black caucus, said, "We will fight for all God's people."

The group was encouraged by the narrow approval last week of Mr. Frankel's bill, on a 12-11 vote by the House State Government Committee. However, all 12 proponents were Democrats and all 11 opponents were Republicans. Three other Democrats on the committee didn't vote.

The issue really isn't a partisan issue, but if Republicans stay opposed, the bill could have a difficult time in the Senate, which is controlled 30-20 by Republicans. Many of them come from smaller towns and rural areas where many people of conservative politics and religious backgrounds live and they tend not to be strong supporters of gay rights.

Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus was present and said he'll work to get the bill approved by the Legislature. He said Pittsburgh took similar steps to ban bias on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in the 1990s.

"It's long overdue" on a statewide basis, he said.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Unlikely Leader

Wouldn't It Be Wonderful If Venango County Became A Leader In Pennsylvania, Or Pennsylvania A Leader In the Country, In Promoting And Protecting GLBT Rights?

By Brad Sears, UCLA School of Law:

When comparisons about gay rights are made between the United States and other countries, they are most often drawn between the U.S. and Europe. While many countries in Europe have leapt ahead in protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, a region of the world much closer to home is now taking the lead: Latin America.

Latin America's emergence as a global leader in LGBT rights was apparent last December, when Argentina led 66 nations in affirming the extension of international human rights protections to the LGBT community in a statement to the United Nations General Assembly. Twelve of those 66 countries were from Latin America. The U.S. declined to sign the statement.

Latin America's role at the U.N. Assembly was not surprising. In June 2008, the 34 members of the Organization of American States unanimously approved a similar declaration.

Latin America's international leadership on LGBT issues is built on a number of advances in individual countries. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court declared the remaining U.S. state sodomy laws unconstitutional in 2003, all but two Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America had already done so, some decades earlier. The two outliers of the region, Nicaragua and Panama, have since repealed their sodomy laws.

Unlike the U.S., Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela all have national laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The new constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. If the U.S. Congress takes up Employment Non-Discrimination Act again this year, it will be joining Brazil and Chile in considering anti-discrimination legislation.

Uruguay, Ecuador and Colombia also provide national recognition to same-sex couples, as do states in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. While a number of states in the U.S. also recognize same-sex couples, the U.S. has no federal law protecting gay couples.

Of course, things are not perfect for LGBT people in Latin America. Transgender individuals, in particular, continue to face high levels of discrimination and there remain insufficient protections for LGBT parents. As is the case in the United States and Europe, legal protections also do not always match the level of social acceptance. Especially outside of larger cities, LGBT people continue to suffer from acts of hate and violence.

This week, leading advocates, scholars and public officials are exploring LGBT rights in Latin America during a four-day international conference hosted by UCLA's Williams Institute. The Global Arc of Justice conference includes free public events in West Hollywood and at UCLA that bring together high-profile Latin Americans fighting on the frontlines for LGBT equality.

Last fall, just over half of California Latino voters supported Proposition 8 and opposed marriage equality. This week's conference brings home the reality that the struggle for LGBT equality is not an agenda item unique to the Anglo-white community. Rather, it is a very real part of the greater Latino family in the Western Hemisphere. Having a greater understanding of this reality will make a difference to LGBT people in our communities, and might make a difference if we are called on to vote on LGBT rights again.

Brad Sears is the executive director of the Williams Institute and an adjunct professor at UCLA School of Law, where he teaches courses on disability law and sexual orientation law.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Coming Soon To Venango County?

The folks in this video are talking about New Hope, a town in Eastern Pennsylvania. But will the same be said of Oil City, Franklin, and other communities in Venango County someday?

We hope so! Soon!

Embraceable You
explores the town’s diversity, and the ability of its residents to live in a peaceful, open community.

Geri Delevich was so inspired by New Hope’s Gay Pride Weekend, that she decided to capture the town she loves on film. An elementary school teacher for 33 years, Delevich knows the power of communication, and decided to share the magic of New Hope in a medium she hopes will change lives.

“I was watching the Gay Pride Parade and I was so touched to see so many people inspired by the parade,” said Delevich. “It literally brought tears to my eyes, watching straight and gay people sharing this moment together, and ultimately celebrating diversity and inclusion,” she said. “New Hope is such a special place because we all have mutual love and respect for one another, and we really all do get along.”

Delevich, who is in her tenth year as a New Hope Borough Council member, said that the documentary is also meant to inspire other cities and towns across the country that are struggling with violence, discrimination and hopelessness. “We were the first borough in the state to establish an ordinance that says you can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. In New Hope, straight and gay people truly accept one another and feel secure and safe, and in our world today, that is a great accomplishment,” she added.

Embraceable You
will capture the magic of New Hope’s vibrant, accepting culture, and hopefully, pass that magic on to others who want to create a life where all are accepted for their innate beauty.

Reminder: Rock the Dome in Harrisburg on Tuesday, March 17

Did you know that in most areas across Pennsylvania it is completely legal to fire someone from their job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression?

Join us in the Pennsylvania Statehouse on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 to raise our voice and pass legislation to protect LGBT Pennsylvanians against discrimination!

The agenda for the day:
11:30- FREE lunch and Mini-Lobbying Training at St. Michael's Church (118 State Street, Harrisburg)
1:00- RALLY in the ROTUNDA
1:30- Lobbying your State Legislators

Buses will be leaving from both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the morning, and will return that evening.

FREE bus ride, FREE lunch, FREE lobby training, and AWESOME rally. This rally is being sponsored by the Value All Families Coalition-- a coalition of statewide, regional, and local organizations across Pennsylvania dedicated to achieving equality for LGBT people in the state.

As we confirm more details for the buses, we will post them here. Seats will be first-come, first-serve, so if you'd like to take the bus PLEASE message Jake Kaskey on here, or e-mail him at jkaskey@equalitypa.org. Please let me know how many seats you are reserving and from which city you're leaving from.

Involved with your student group on campus? FIELD TRIP! Involved with other groups on here? Send them this event! Please forward this information around to everyone interested in fairness and equality for LGBT people.

We have a momentum to really pass this important legislation that will affect thousands of LGBT people across the entire state. Together lets stand up, speak out, and make a difference in Pennsylvania!

Time for Equal Rights in Pennsylvania

By Matthew Major for the Public Opinion editorial board, Chambersburg, PA:

It's long been considered a fundamental American value not to discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious minorities, so much so that states across the nation enshrined that enlightened principle into law.

After all, America is a place where everyone has the right to be judged according to their merit and character, and not by the color of their skin, the size of their wallet, or their means of worship.

Unless, of course, you happen to be gay. If you're gay, you can be denied housing, work and access to public accommodations, unlike the folks who cite their protected religious beliefs to justify denial of similar protections to others.

Those are the people griping the most about legislative action Wednesday in the Pennsylvania House of Representations, where a committee narrowly passed a bill to extend the same anti-discrimination protections to gay men and women that have long been the law for racial, ethnic and religious minorities.

Pennsylvania law provides basic legal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin and disability. According to the bill's supporters, 20 states have already extended similar protections to gays and lesbians, as have 13 cities and towns covering about one-fifth of Pennsylvania's population.

The anti-discrimination bill passed the State Government Committee in the Pennsylvania House on a 12-11, party-line vote, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.

It now goes for consideration by the full House but remains a long shot, especially the Republican-controlled Senate.

The important thing to remember about anti-discrimination measures is they are primarily meant to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority, and they make no distinctions as to circumstances that create those minority groups.

Do gay people choose to be gay? We doubt it, but no one has proven the point either way.

Even if they do, arguing on moral grounds that one choice (religious preference) should be protected while another (sexual orientation) should not amounts to gross hypocrisy.

And if they don't, then this anti-discrimination bill represents a chance to do right by a segment of American minority that has been denied one of the bedrock benefits to American citizenship for far too long.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The So-Called "Moral Majority" Is On The Decline

The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off

This is Good News for All in Venango County Who Are Working For Dignity, Respect, Fairness and Equality for All. But Local Extremists Will Surely Not Go Quietly into the Night.

By Frank Rich for The New York Times:

SOMEDAY we’ll learn the whole story of why George W. Bush brushed off that intelligence briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” But surely a big distraction was the major speech he was readying for delivery on Aug. 9, his first prime-time address to the nation. The subject — which Bush hyped as “one of the most profound of our time” — was stem cells. For a presidency in thrall to a thriving religious right (and a presidency incapable of multi-tasking), nothing, not even terrorism, could be more urgent.

When Barack Obama ended the Bush stem-cell policy last week, there were no such overheated theatrics. No oversold prime-time address. No hysteria from politicians, the news media or the public. The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced. Their less-famous successors pumped out their pro forma e-mail blasts, but to little avail. The Republican National Committee said nothing whatsoever about Obama’s reversal of Bush stem-cell policy. That’s quite a contrast to 2006, when the party’s wild and crazy (and perhaps transitory) new chairman, Michael Steele, likened embryonic stem-cell research to Nazi medical experiments during his failed Senate campaign.

What has happened between 2001 and 2009 to so radically change the cultural climate? Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.

Not only was Obama’s stem-cell decree an anticlimactic blip in the news, but so was his earlier reversal of Bush restrictions on the use of federal money by organizations offering abortions overseas. When the administration tardily ends “don’t ask, don’t tell,” you can bet that this action, too, will be greeted by more yawns than howls.

Once again, both the president and the country are following New Deal-era precedent. In the 1920s boom, the reigning moral crusade was Prohibition, and it packed so much political muscle that F.D.R. didn’t oppose it. The Anti-Saloon League was the Moral Majority of its day, the vanguard of a powerful fundamentalist movement that pushed anti-evolution legislation as vehemently as it did its war on booze. (The Scopes “monkey trial” was in 1925.) But the political standing of this crowd crashed along with the stock market. Roosevelt shrewdly came down on the side of “the wets” in his presidential campaign, leaving Hoover to drown with “the dries.”

Much as Obama repealed the Bush restrictions on abortion and stem-cell research shortly after pushing through his stimulus package, so F.D.R. jump-started the repeal of Prohibition by asking Congress to legalize beer and wine just days after his March 1933 inauguration and declaration of a bank holiday. As Michael A. Lerner writes in his fascinating 2007 book “Dry Manhattan,” Roosevelt’s stance reassured many Americans that they would have a president “who not only cared about their economic well-being” but who also understood their desire to be liberated from “the intrusion of the state into their private lives.” Having lost plenty in the Depression, the public did not want to surrender any more freedoms to the noisy minority that had shut down the nation’s saloons.

In our own hard times, the former moral “majority” has been downsized to more of a minority than ever. Polling shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree with ending Bush restrictions on stem-cell research (a Washington Post/ABC News survey in January); that 55 percent endorse either gay civil unions or same-sex marriage (Newsweek, December 2008); and that 75 percent believe openly gay Americans should serve in the military (Post/ABC, July 2008). Even the old indecency wars have subsided. When a federal court last year struck down the F.C.C. fine against CBS for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl, few Americans either noticed or cared about the latest twist in what had once been a national cause célèbre.

It’s not hard to see why Eric Cantor, the conservative House firebrand who is vehemently opposed to stem-cell research, was disinclined to linger on the subject when asked about it on CNN last Sunday. He instead accused the White House of acting on stem cells as a ploy to distract from the economy. “Let’s take care of business first,” he said. “People are out of jobs.” (On this, he’s joining us late, but better late than never.)

Even were the public still in the mood for fiery invective about family values, the G.O.P. has long since lost any authority to lead the charge. The current Democratic president and his family are exemplars of precisely the Eisenhower-era squareness — albeit refurbished by feminism — that the Republicans often preached but rarely practiced. Obama actually walks the walk. As the former Bush speechwriter David Frum recently wrote, the new president is an “apparently devoted husband and father” whose worst vice is “an occasional cigarette.”

Frum was contrasting Obama to his own party’s star attraction, Rush Limbaugh, whose “history of drug dependency” and “tangled marital history” make him “a walking stereotype of self-indulgence.” Indeed, the two top candidates for leader of the post-Bush G.O.P, Rush and Newt, have six marriages between them. The party that once declared war on unmarried welfare moms, homosexual “recruiters” and Bill Clinton’s private life has been rebranded by Mark Foley, Larry Craig, David Vitter and the irrepressible Palins. Even before the economy tanked, Americans had more faith in medical researchers using discarded embryos to battle Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s than in Washington politicians making ad hoc medical decisions for Terri Schiavo.

What’s been revealing about watching conservatives debate their fate since their Election Day Waterloo is how, the occasional Frum excepted, so many of them don’t want to confront the obsolescence of culture wars as a political crutch. They’d rather, like Cantor, just change the subject — much as they avoid talking about Bush and avoid reckoning with the doomed demographics of the G.O.P.’s old white male base. To recognize all these failings would be to confront why a once-national party can now be tucked into the Bible Belt.

The religious right is even more in denial than the Republicans. When Obama nominated Kathleen Sebelius, the Roman Catholic Kansas governor who supports abortion rights, as his secretary of health and human services, Tony Perkins, the leader of the Family Research Council, became nearly as apoplectic as the other Tony Perkins playing Norman Bates. “If Republicans won’t take a stand now, when will they?” the godly Perkins thundered online. But Congressional Republicans ignored him, sending out (at most) tepid press releases of complaint, much as they did in response to Obama’s stem-cell order. The two antiabortion Kansas Republicans in the Senate, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both endorsed Sebelius.

Perkins is now praying that economic failure will be a stimulus for his family-values business. “As the economy goes downward,” he has theorized, “I think people are going to be driven to religion.” Wrong again. The latest American Religious Identification Survey, published last week, found that most faiths have lost ground since 1990 and that the fastest-growing religious choice is “None,” up from 8 percent to 15 percent (which makes it larger than all denominations except Roman Catholics and Baptists). Another highly regarded poll, the General Social Survey, had an even more startling finding in its preliminary 2008 data released this month: Twice as many Americans have a “great deal” of confidence in the scientific community as do in organized religion. How the almighty has fallen: organized religion is in a dead heat with banks and financial institutions on the confidence scale.

This, too, is a replay of the Great Depression. “One might have expected that in such a crisis great numbers of these people would have turned to the consolations of and inspirations of religion,” wrote Frederick Lewis Allen in “Since Yesterday,” his history of the 1930s published in 1940. But that did not happen: “The long slow retreat of the churches into less and less significance in the life of the country, and even in the lives of the majority of their members, continued almost unabated.”

The new American faith, Allen wrote, was the “secular religion of social consciousness.” It took the form of campaigns for economic and social justice — as exemplified by the New Deal and those movements that challenged it from both the left and the right. It’s too early in our crisis and too early in the new administration to know whether this decade will so closely replicate the 1930s, but so far Obama has far more moral authority than any religious leader in America with the possible exception of his sometime ally, the Rev. Rick Warren.

History is cyclical, and it would be foolhardy to assume that the culture wars will never return. But after the humiliations of the Scopes trial and the repeal of Prohibition, it did take a good four decades for the religious right to begin its comeback in the 1970s. In our tough times, when any happy news can be counted as a miracle, a 40-year exodus for these ayatollahs can pass for an answer to America’s prayers.

Watchdog Groups Demand 'Ex-Gay' Organization Dismiss Leader, Alan Chambers, After Exodus International Participates In Anti-Gay Hate Conference

Exodus Under Fire After Group Remains Silent As Speakers At Ugandan Event Seek To 'Wipe Out' Homosexuality And Imprison Gays

"Ex-Gay" programs are promoted regularly here in Venango County by Jane Richey of radio station WAWN and Diane Gramley of the American Family Association.

from Truth Wins Out:

NEW YORK - The three leading watchdog organizations that monitor "ex-gay" ministries today called on the largest such group, Exodus International, to fire its leader, Alan Chambers. The coalition charged in a letter to Bob Ragan, chair of the Exodus Board of Directors, that Chambers allowed the organization to be used and give credibility to a conference that promoted human rights abuses against gay and lesbian people.

Representatives from Ex-Gay Watch, Box Turtle Bulletin and Truth Wins Out signed the letter, which stated:

We, the undersigned organizations, have monitored the ex-gay industry for more than a decade. To our great horror, prominent members of the ex-gay organization Exodus International participated last week in a conference in Uganda that promoted shocking abuses of basic human rights. This included draconian measures against gay and lesbian people such as forced ex-gay therapy, life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexuality and the formation of an organization designed to "wipe out" gay practices in Uganda. The conference also featured Scott Lively, a Holocaust revisionist who at the event also blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay Pink Swastikaeople.

"Alan Chambers has shown a serious lack of leadership by allowing Exodus to become part of such a horrible event," said David Roberts, Editor of Ex-Gay Watch. "The participation of board member Don Schmierer in the Ugandan anti-gay conference undermines any credibility they may have had, and puts them right in the middle of serious human rights abuses. What on earth were they thinking?"

"I'm outraged that Don Schmierer used his position with Exodus to legitimize calls for further criminalizing and forced 'therapy' for gays and lesbians," said Jim Burroway, founder and editor of Box Turtle Bulletin. "Exodus' failure to speak out against the conference's recommendations and denounce the Holocaust revisionism of Scott Lively is inexcusable. Those who allowed this to happen must be held accountable."

"Exodus has turned a deaf ear to the violence committed against Ugandan sexual minorities," said Truth Wins Out's News Director, Mike Airhart. "Worse, it stood in public solidarity with those who are responsible for vigilante violence and state-sanctioned denial of freedom."

"Alan Chambers has consistently taken Exodus International in unsavory directions that have brought great shame on the organization," said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. "Exodus' participation in the Ugandan conference only confirms that it is time he is removed from his position of leadership."Uganda Map

The coalition's letter went on to say:

The facts incontrovertibly show that Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, was aware of the list of speakers and abhorrent content prior to the conference. Exodus board member Don Schmierer, who spoke in Uganda, made no objections to the radical and dangerous platform offered. Instead, these mortal threats to the lives of gay and lesbian people were met with a deafening silence. Exodus, in effect, gave this insidious conference its tacit approval.

The coalition also called on Exodus to take the following steps:

* Remove Board member Don Schmierer (Pictured Right) for speaking at a hate conference that promotes physical harm and psychological torture against GLBT people

* Boldly articulate Exodus' policy against human rights abuses including forced therapy

* Promise to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people

Ex-Gay Watch is a group of writers who monitor the actions of ex-gay organizations. The result of this work appears at exgaywatch.com where civil debate and comment are welcome.

Box Turtle Bulletin is an online watchdog effort by a group of writers who specialize in news, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric. It is available at www.boxturtlebulletin.com

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. More information can be found at www.TruthWinsOut.org.

See the Open Letter HERE