Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let's Prove That Love Conquers Hate

Judy Shepard lost her son Matthew to an anti-gay hate crime more than 10 years ago. Since then tens of thousands more Americans have been the victims of hate violence. Tell Congress it's time to act.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Inclusive ENDA Introduced! Ask your Representative to Become a Cosponsor!

In 30 states you can be fired from your job for being lesbian, gay or bisexual.

In 38 states you can be fired from your job for being transgender.

Just think about it: Right now employers in MOST states can take away the livelihood of you, or your friends, or your family members, simply because of who you are. This blatant denial of the rights of LGBT people is an affront to the United States' potential as the standard bearer for equality and a disgrace to every American.

Every single person in the LGBT community has the right to protection from workplace discrimination.

This week, Representative Barney Frank, joined by Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, introduced an inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - which would extend the existing federal law prohibiting employment discrimination to protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill was introduced by a group of bi-partisan Representatives and it is important that we here in Pennsylvania contact our legislators to become cosponsors as well. Becoming a cosponsor shows that the Representative will stand firm with our community and helps build momentum for the bill’s passage.

The Representative for Venango County and a large portion of northwestern and central Pennsylvania is Glenn "GT" Thompson. Contact information for Rep. Thompson HERE.

To learn more and to find out how to contact your representative, check out Equality Advocates Pennsylvania.

Congress needs to hear from all of us, and they need to hear from us now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

July 4 "Tea Parties" Co-Organized by the American Family Association Will Include White Nationalists

by Leonard Zeskind, author of "Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream."

On July 4, tens of thousands of mostly middle-class white people in hundreds of different cities will register their opposition to the Barack Obama presidency at Tea Party events from coast to coast. Mainline Republicans will be among the protestors. They might carry poster signs about the rapidly expanding national debt, or against universal healthcare and more taxes. Expect also that peculiar brand of libertarian conservative from Congressman Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty, which is actually one of two organizational pillars of the Tea Parties. The other mainstay has been Donald Wildmon's American Family Association. Its website has posted the names of more than 1,500 people who have signed up to organize protests in their communities. A total of 1,271 cities will have AFA "registered" events.

The Tea Parties will also attract a number of white nationalist activists this time around, drawn primarily by the prospect of a replay of Tea Party protests last April 15. At that time more than 260,000 people showed up at over 300 Tea Party events, according to a respectable count by Nate Silver, who used mainstream media reports as his guide. At that time, Minuteman and other anti-immigrant activists added to the count, as did members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist organization headquartered in St. Louis with member concentrations throughout the South and Mid-South.

A recent opinion piece by Bill Rolen in the Council's tabloid newspaper, The Citizen Informer, underscores his organization's ambivalence over the Tea Party events. On the positive side he writes, "the fact that hundreds of thousands of white people got up the nerve to oppose the government [was] astonishing." On the other hand, Rolen notes the "negative tendency that plagues Tea Party activism...to deny the racial dynamic empowering the movement." He concludes that, "The future of this revolution, if that is what it is, depends on white zealots." Little talk of taxes and budget deficits intrudes into this analysis of past events.

The Council of Conservative Citizens has not yet made a visible and significant organizational commitment to mobilize its thousands of members for the Tea Parties on July 4, but from another corner of the white nationalist movement plans to participate have been brewing since the first week in May. On the Stormfront website, national socialists and others have created a discussion thread under the rubric of a possible Tea Party for Americans Coalition.

At times these posts have an almost cartoonish aspect, with elaborately construed pseudonyms and accompanying graphics--a number of which include pictures of the now deceased National Alliance founder William Pierce. But the conclusions are real enough. They will not wear any gear with swastikas or other symbols of their actual core ideologies. They might carry Confederate battle flags or other more generic symbols of white protest. And they will be handing out a leaflet with a relatively muted political message. "We need a relevant transitional envelop-pushing flyer for the masses. Take these Tea Party Americans by the hand and help them go from crawling to standing independently and then walking towards racialism," one poster argued.

Others had slightly different ideas. Several people said they would bring a variety of pieces of propaganda, with the intensity of racism apparent on a sliding scale. They would gauge the individual Tea Partyer that they were talking to, and hand them material accordingly.

In contradistinction, another message read, "I distributed WN [white nationalist] literature at the last Tea Party in Phoenix. I will be doing it again in July. This is the time and place. For those on a budget, I would suggest printing business cards with the web address of your group or organization. Keep it simple."

This band of white nationalists on Stormfront obviously believe that the Tea Parties represent an opportunity for them to strengthen their numbers, and perhaps gain a larger foothold among the grass roots opponents of President Barack Obama. This opposition may just now be starting to grow some legs. Not in Congress, where Republicans are out-numbered and remain out-gunned. Not in opinion polls, where support for President Obama remains high. Not in the deep blue states of the D.C. to Boston corridor. But in the civic arena, where a constellation of anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and Christian right activists and Republican conservatives are gathering their forces. Expect white nationalists to put their own star in this sky.

Liberals, progressives and Obama-ites of every description would make a mistake if they chose to ignore this opposition, or worse yet decided to deny it exists. And yes, Donald Wildmon and Ron Paul should wake up, before somebody comes along and eats their lunch the way Pat Buchanan and his followers took away Ross Perot's Reform Party in the 2000 elections.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stop Bullying! Pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act

Racist and Homophobic Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Has Become All Too Common in Venango County Schools. Sign the GLSEN Petition To Call for Change.

Dear Members of the 111th Congress,

Last month the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2262) was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. It is our hope that you will do the right thing and support this essential piece of legislation that will help make schools safer for all students regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

H.R. 2262 would require schools that receive Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act funding to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies that enumerate categories often targeted by bullies, including race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and others.

Up until this point we have failed our students and young people by allowing anti-LGBT bullying to go unfettered and unchecked. The most recent result of our negligence to respond collectively and proactively to this endemic problem has been the loss of two young lives this past April. Within just two weeks this spring, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover of Springfield, MA, and Jaheem Herrera of DeKalb, GA, returned from school with broken spirits and hanged themselves following relentless bullying and anti-gay taunts. These were just the reported cases—thousands more suffer silently.

We commend Representatives Linda Sánchez (CA-39), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) and Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4) for introducing this vital bill and those who valiantly cosponsor and support this legislation. We urge all members of Congress to support this long overdue legislation—and to reach out to other members of Congress.

When young lives are lost as a result of a problem we have the power to correct, we all bear part of the responsibility. Passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2262) is a step in the right direction towards righting this tremendous wrong we have committed against our youth through not taking decisive action sooner.

We hope you will think of Carl, Jaheem and the countless other students who are victims of bullying when considering this critical bill. Please, support and vote for the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2262).


Eliza Byard, PhD
Executive Director, GLSEN


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our Struggle Is Local

Why the Gay Rights Movement Has No National Leader

By Jeremy W. Peters for the NY Times:

Every so often, the American social order is reshuffled. And that upheaval is typically accompanied by a prominent face.

Frederick Douglass became the face of the black abolitionist movement. A century later, Martin Luther King Jr. played that role in the civil rights movement. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem became the spokeswomen for the modern women’s movement.

Yet the gay rights movement, which is about to enter its fifth decade, has never had a such a leader despite making remarkable strides in a relatively short period of time.

Gay people have no national standard-bearer, no go-to sound-byte machine for the media. So when President Obama last week extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, there was no alpha gay leader to respond with the movement’s official voice, though some activists criticized the president for not going far enough.

Until 1973, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Today, same-sex couples can marry in six states. How did a group that has been so successful over the last generation in countering cultural prejudice and winning civil rights make it so far without an obvious leader?

One explanation is that gay and lesbian activists learned early on that they could get along just fine without one. Even in the movement’s earliest days following the violent uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village 40 years ago this week, no singular leader emerged. Some historians believe this is in part because it was — and still is — difficult for the average American to empathize with the struggles of gay people.

“The gay movement has always had a problem of achieving a dignity or a moral imperative that the black civil rights movement had, or the women’s rights movement claimed,” said Dudley Clendinen, who co-wrote the book “Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America” and now teaches writing at Johns Hopkins University. “Because this movement is fundamentally about the right to be sexual, it’s hard for the larger public to see that as a moral issue,” he said.

By contrast, the moral authority that leaders like Dr. King, Ms. Friedan and Ms. Steinem could claim — and the fact that Americans did not look at them and imagine their sex lives — made it easier to build respectability with the public.

Another reason for the absence of a nationally prominent gay leader is the highly local nature of the movement. Unlike the civil rights and the feminist movements, the gay movement lacked a galvanizing national issue.

In the 1950s and 1960s, black activists pushed for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and asserted their rights in the courts in cases like Brown v. Board of Education. Feminists campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

“Betty and her group wanted to do it from a more top-down approach,” said Daniel Horowitz, a professor of American studies at Smith College who wrote a biography of Ms. Friedan. “You go to Washington and you lobby members of Congress. In fact, she talked explicitly about the N.A.A.C.P. as her model, and the N.A.A.C.P. had achieved its goals primarily through Supreme Court cases.”

Many gay activists pursued a different approach, focusing on issues pertinent to their local communities. Though he has achieved celebrity status of late, Harvey Milk was a mere San Francisco city supervisor, without much in the way of a national profile, when he was assassinated in 1978.

City councils and state legislatures are where domestic partnership laws and legislation extending anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians originated. In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And of the six states that now allow same-sex marriage, three — Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont — legalized the practice through a vote by the state legislature, without prodding by a court.

“The issues of gay rights are mainly state issues, so the focus for activism is going to be on the local level,” said David Eisenbach, a lecturer in history at Columbia University and the author of “Gay Power: An American Revolution.”

The shifting legal and political environment that has confronted the movement over the years has also made it difficult for a singular leader to emerge.

After the Stonewall uprising 40 years ago, the goal was to persuade society to stop treating gays and lesbians like social deviants.

That movement for equality was later overshadowed by efforts to combat AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s. And AIDS itself is a reason leaders were hard to come by. “AIDS wiped out a whole generation,” Mr. Eisenbach said. “What you have is a vacuum. And that still has not been filled.”

As the AIDS crisis was contained, gay activists shifted their focus in the late 1990s and early 2000s to laws about discrimination, hate crimes and domestic partnerships. Successes on those issues were due in large part to gay rights groups that rose up at the local level and learned to work with local lawmakers.

Until 2003, few even contemplated that gay couples would be able to marry. Then Massachusetts’ highest court ruled that gay couples had that right under the state’s Constitution, ushering in a whole new phase of the movement. Activists on the state and local levels were already well in place and found themselves positioned to wage the campaigns for same-sex marriage — as the recent successes in the Northeast have shown.

“They see dispersal as a great thing, that it’s better not to have a concentration or too much attention overinvested in one individual,” said David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who has written about the civil rights and women’s rights movements.“The speed and breadth of change has been just breathtaking,” he added. “But it’s happened without a Martin Luther King.”

Four More Years? Say It Isn't So

The Venango County Republican Committee has chosen its two top officials for new four-year terms. Martha Breene of Oil City was re-elected committee chairman, and Rev. Thomas Prosser of Knox was chosen vice chairman. The organizational meeting was attended by 70 of the 74 committee members.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pennsylvania's Shame: Republican State Senator Says We're "Allowing" Gay People To Exist "

by Michael Morrill

I listened to it live, but I couldn’t believe my ears. So I waited for the podcast and listened again. And he really said it.

A Republican Pennsylvania State Senator told a Philadelphia radio audience that our society is “allowing” gay people to exist.

Senator John Eichelberger (R-30) made his remarks today in a live radio debate with Senator Daylin Leach (D-17) on the Radio Times show on WHYY-FM. The debate was over the senators’ competing bills on marriage equality.

Eichelberger’s bill would enshrine discrimination and bigotry by amending the Pennsylvania Constitution to ban same-sex unions.

Sen. Leach’s bill (SB 935) would expand the definition of marriage and allow same-sex couples to wed.

Michael Morrill's diary:

Eichelberger also made other disparaging remarks about LGBT people and compared gay marriage to marrying a 13 year old.

I’m appalled that an elected official holds views like these. But I’m even more upset that he feels comfortable saying them in public.

If you’re as angry as I am, please take a moment to send an email to Sen. Eichelberg by clicking here.

Tell him no one “allows” LGBT people to exist.

It’s time to stand up and say we won’t allow bigots to say things like this with

Take action now! Write to Eichelberger by clicking here

Here’s a partial transcript of Eichelberger’s remarks. Times are approximate. You can take action at:


You can listen to the whole debate at: http://www.whyy.org/...

Leach: How would he [Eichelberger] want to encourage stability in gay couples?

Eichelberger: I wouldn’t. I mean they can practice whatever sexual activity they like to practice, but there’s no reason to give them special consideration. We don’t give them special consideration in Pennsylvania for any reason. Why in the world would we allow them to marry?

Leach: How would he want to encourage stability in gay couples?
Eichelberger: There is no reason to encourage that type of behavior in Pennsylvania.

Eichelberger: That comes back to the definition of family and that’s where we differ. We can call all kinds of things families. I mean, we can say a 3 party marriage is a family, or 7 or 8 people or marrying younger and younger children these days .

Host: Are you saying that by their very nature homosexual relationships are dysfunctional?
Eichelberger: [Pause] Ummmm. I guess I would say that. I would say that.

Eichelberger: This changes the definition of marriage, allowing same-sex, and then like I said, 5-10 years from now it’ll be polygamy, marrying younger people, it’ll be whatever…It won’t be a 6 year old, it’ll be a 15 year old, then it’ll be a 14 year old, then it’ll be a 13 year old.

Leach: Should our only policy towards [same-sex] couples be one of punishment, to somehow prove that they’ve done something wrong?
Eichelberger: They’re not being punished. We’re allowing them to exist, and do what every American can do. We’re just not rewarding them with any special designation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cool Org: Silent Witness Pennsylvania

Silent Witness PA (SWPA) is an organization of gay and straight allies dedicated to providing a non-confrontational buffer between those who condemn others based on their sexual orientation or identity and those they condemn. We provide visual protection from "street preachers" and protesters at events such as Pridefests, the showing of films such as Jim in Bold and For the Bible Tells Me So, or staging of plays such as The Laramie Project, using our bodies and rainbow umbrellas as shields. In times of need, we intervene to prevent confrontations between protesters and event participants, often acting as escorts for those who would like to attend such events. Where there are those who publicly promote hate, we will be there to help provide a loving, supportive front opposing them. We are not counter-protesters. Instead, we provide a visual representation of support for those in our society who may feel marginalized.

Silent Witnesses receive significant training in non-confrontation techniques specially designed for the type of work they do. Only those who have received this training may participate in an event as a Silent Witness. Silent Witnesses are easily recognized by their special safety vests and rainbow umbrellas.

Silent Witnesses have been part of GLBT events in Pennsylvania for the past several years. Our purpose is to act as a "human spiritual firewall" between GLBT folks and those individuals who believe GLBT's are an abomination on the face of the earth. This concerned and dedicated group of activists consists of over 600 local individuals who have been specially trained to deal with hate-mongers. Because street preachers and other vicious protestors have a long history of picketing, antagonizing and subsequently suing various individuals and organizations, Silent Witnesses stand ready to prevent confrontations while welcoming and supporting GLBT participants to the event they are attending.

It is often a struggle to refrain from arguing with street preachers and other protestors, but based on past experience, confronting them is clearly useless. Their attempts to engage participants in a "dialogue" are thinly disguised attempts to trap unsuspecting subjects into listening to their diatribe. They are impervious to logic. And at their worst, they are trying to earn a living by provoking an attack and filing lawsuits. It is precisely this kind of result that SWPA is determined to prevent.

While individual members of SWPA may hold deep religious beliefs, and are free to express them during events, SWPA supports diversity in all its forms, including religion. For some, it is their belief in the all-abiding love of their God that inspires them to do this work. For others it is their belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people that drives their participation. Whatever the motivation, the result is the same: we will continue to support the rights of those who suffer expressions of hate.

Click here for more information about Silent Witness PA.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day !

Emmy & Sundance Grand Jury Prize Nominated, one-hour documentary exploring the personal, cultural, and political impact of gay men who are making a decision that is at once traditional and revolutionary: to raise children themselves.

For more information, please visit www.DaddyandPapa.com

Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Bill

Press Conference Where Senator Daylin Leach Will Be Announcing His Pennsylvania Marriage Equality Bill

Tuesday, June 30th, 10:00am.

Pennsylvania Capitol Rotunda -- that's the big white building at 3rd and State Streets in Harrisburg

Please Support Senator Leach.

If enough of us show up, this could be a rally!

Please pass this on!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Will Your Senator Sponsor Equality or Discrimination?

Senator Daylin Leach recently introduced legislation that would make Pennsylvania the 7th state to legalize marriage equality.

While I am thrilled at this, I have to admit that I'm very disappointed that only one other Senator, Larry Farnese, has had the courage to stand with Senator Leach.

At the same time, 13 Pennsylvania State Senators, including 2 Democrats, have signed on to John Eichelberger's bill to ban marriage equality.

Both bills, the bill for equality and the bill for discrimination, are seeking more co-sponsors. We've created a petition asking our state senators to do two things:

1) Ask Senators to co-sponsor The Marriage Equality Bill (SB 935), and

2) Ask Senators to "just say no" to discrimination and bigotry by refusing to co-sponsor the bill to ban marriage equality.

Please join the movement toward full civil rights for all Pennsylvanians and sign our petition at Keystone Equality

Thank You,

Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good Old Traditional Family Values

Get Your Vietnamese Bride Now: Only $167 Per Month

• Vietnamese Mail Order Bride: $8,000
• Teach Yourself Vietnamese Complete Course Package (Book + 2CDs): $52.33
• Investing in human trafficking, exploitation and racial subjugation: Priceless

To buy a laptop, I can set up a monthly payment plan. To buy a new car, I can set up a monthly payment plan. To buy a Vietnamese bride, I can also set up a monthly payment plan. Is this for real? Apparently yes. Diners Club had made a deal with Vietnam Brides International which offered a four year payment plan of $167 a month, interest-free, for a bride (the actual cost being $8,000).

Amanda Kloer's Human Trafficking blog on Change.org led a campaign to stop Diners Club from setting up these payment plans.

Human beings should not be bought or sold, and they certainly shouldn't be part of a payment plan, a "blue light special", or a clearance sale. Mail order brides are not only extremely vulnerable to human trafficking, but also domestic violence, abuse, rape, and exploitation. While creating a payment plan to purchase a human being is ethically and philosophically disgusting, it also reduces the economic barrier to buying a bride. Removing that barrier allows traffickers to acquire women using less capital than they needed before. It opens the door to a new socio-economic class of criminals to buy and exploit these women.

Unfortunately, this is just a small part of the much larger problem of human trafficking of Asian women and girls. The commodification and exotification of Asian women has lead to luring unsuspecting women, usually from poorer regions of their country, to the United States, only to be sold into the sex-industry or some form of slavery with no hope of escape.

But this particular story does end on a more optimistic note. I'm glad to report that after over 800 people signed the petition, Diners Club has officially canceled their agreement with Vietnam Brides International.

“On behalf of Diners Club International, which is part of Discover Financial Services, we appreciate [your] bringing this specific merchant relationship with a Diners franchisee to our attention. Formal steps have been taken to terminate the relationship [with Vietnam Brides International].”

by Hatty Lee of RaceWire

Obama's Plan for Gay Rights

Check it out HERE

Do Something About It In Pennsylvania!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nation's Mayors Speak Up for Equality

Where Do The Mayors and other Elected Representatives
of Venango County Stand on Equality?

The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution supporting marriage equality today.

Conference president and mayor of Seattle Greg Nickels said, “The nation’s mayors are proud to take the lead in recognizing the importance of protecting all our citizens equally. It is now time for state legislatures and our federal government to enact the same protections for all our nation’s citizens.”

The resolution, titled Equality and Civil Rights for Gay and Lesbian Americans, also endorsed federal bills including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, the Uniting American Families Act, and the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The resolution read that the conference of mayors “opposes the enshrinement of discrimination in the federal and state constitutions.”

In a release, Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, said, “By passing this resolution, America’s mayors spoke for the families they know and serve in communities across the country and said that excluding those families from the freedom to marry must stop.”

He added that mayors “have their fingers on the pulse of the country, and their voices today said loud and clear that ending discrimination in marriage is the way to go.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cool Orgs: Pennsylvania Diversity Network

The Pennsylvania Diversity Network fosters strength and vitality in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Community by providing news, information, presentations, health programs, events and other services.

While its primary focus is on Eastern Pennsylvania, it is an incredible example of what is possible, and an inspiration to us about the work that is to be done here in Western Pennsylvania.

Check it out HERE

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Are LGBT People Ready To Sacrifice For The Fight?

by Nadine Smith of Equality Florida:

At a recent speaking engagement, I asked a group of people, “What would the world be like if, from the day you were born, prejudice had never touched your lives?”

I encourage everyone to try this exercise because it is surprisingly difficult and because I believe it is the pathway to our most potent tools in response to government-imposed second-class citizenship: A sense of urgency and the willingness to sacrifice to harness the transformational power of living “as if.” “As if” the laws had already changed. “As if” society were just.

Sitting at a lunch counter that bans your presence is living “as if.” Keeping your seat when ordered to relinquish it to someone the law has designated your superior is living “as if.”

So where are the places where we contemplate the consequences of living “as if” equality had already arrived. Housing discrimination, workplace discrimination, adoption/custody issues and hate violence are constant threats in LGBT lives, but not in inevitable or predictable ways. Where are the “sit -in” opportunities for the LGBT movement that can expose the contradiction between what our fellow Americans believe they stand for and what they allow to be done in their name?

Certainly discrimination in marriage laws and the military provide the most direct opportunities. These are the places the law defines us specifically as unequal, where we can make a reliable appointment with discrimination and be certain it will show up right on time.

Service members who come out while on active duty and fight for the right to continue to do their jobs are a model for this kind of personal commitment and sacrifice. They decide not to participate in their own discrimination. They and the organizations fighting for them are shifting public opinion in dramatic ways.

What is the civilian equivalent? What can we do that demonstrates not only the rhetoric of equality but the personal sacrifice that will awaken the conscience of a nation?

What if those of us who are married lived as if our marriages are universally legally recognized? What if we literally refused to deny our spouse on any form, under any circumstances, ever?

When the government asks legally married couples in Massachusetts to file as “married” in their state and then mark “single” on the federal tax form, they are asking that couple to participate in their own discrimination so that the government doesn’t have to dirty its hands.

They are literally demanding that we lie, to tell an untruth about our marital status, so they can avoid confronting the difference between the hate-based discrimination they impose on us and the reality of our loving families.

Imagine the ripple effect of government-issued letters to married gay couples ordering them to deny their spouse on federal forms.

We have to compel these moments by deciding that our lives will be about honesty and self-respect. Even if it comes at a price.

Rosa Parks showed us that even one family refusing to participate in their own discrimination will have an impact.

But thousands of us, all of us, can decide to leave the discrimination up to the other side. We can refuse to collaborate in our own discrimination.

If we refuse to deny our spouses even when the law tries to force us to lie. If we insist on paying our taxes as married couples, even though the federal government assessed our taxes as though we were single.

If we risked being detained at the border by customs agents who insist we mark “single” on declaration forms despite the marriage certificate we hold.

Even with expert legal guidance detailing the risks, a good dose of uncertainty would be inevitable for anyone taking such a stand into uncharted territory.

Am I willing to take that risk? Are you? Are we all? Every civil rights struggle in this country has required people to sacrifice.

The country is watching. Are we ready to do the same?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

John Berry, the highest-ranking openly LGBT official in the Obama administration, delivered a stirring and poignant appeal to Justice Department employees at their Pride celebration.

It’s good to be here at the Department of Justice. I deeply appreciate the work you do and thank you for your service to our country. Thank you, Mr. Attorney General, for your leadership in continuing this wonderful tradition of celebrating Gay Pride. And thank you, Chris Hook, for the kind introduction. It’s an honor to be with you all today.

I’m so glad that you’re honoring Dr. Frank Kameny today. In 1957, two years before I was born, Dr. Kameny, a veteran and Ph.D. astronomer from Harvard, was fired from his civil service job solely for his sexual orientation. In one letter to him, an agency official wrote that the Government “does not hire homosexuals and will not permit their employment...” He went on to say that “the homosexual is automatically a security risk” and that he “frequently becomes a disruptive personnel factor within any organization.”

With the fervent passion of a true patriot, Frank did not resign himself to his fate or quietly endure his wrong. He fought back. After 20 years, he achieved the goal he sought: The repudiation of the Government’s policy of formal and unfounded discrimination.

That same spirit burned in the hearts of patrons of the Stonewall bar on a warm July night 40 years ago. Laws against homosexuality were often selectively enforced by police -- not to protect and defend, but to terrorize and abuse an unpopular minority. On one such raid to arrest gay and transgender patrons of the Stonewall bar, that same spark of liberty that burned so brightly in Frank Kameny’s chest burst to bonfire life in New York City.

Saying “no” to abuse, “no” to harassment, “no” to basic violations of human dignity -- proud Americans stood up, fought back, and gave birth to the national movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

That movement’s agenda and goal is simple: All Americans should be free to work where their skills enable them; free to share equally in every right as well as every responsibility and burden of citizenship; and free to love and pursue happiness no more and no less than our fellow Americans.

This struggle follows the great American tradition of taking on difficult battles with the same full depth of commitment and passion of those who fought for liberty and against the injustices of their day. Who can forget the courage of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, when many of their neighbors and countrymen saw their pursuit of liberty as treason and would have cheered their hanging?

We need no public poll to tell us how half the country, desperately defending the shackles of slavery, used Scripture, courts, secession, and war to declare African-Americans as chattel and 3/5ths of a person.

Whether it was securing a woman’s right to vote or ending “separate but equal” -- make no mistake -- Susan B. Anthony and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were not unanimously acclaimed and embraced by all their country. Thankfully, they were embraced by enough hearts, with enough passion, that together they could stand their ground with courage and hope, carrying the day for right, for justice, and for liberty.

Today, our country is once again divided -- and pray as I do for a middle ground, finding it is often elusive when liberty is at stake.

The tree of liberty grows but in one direction -- by adding rings. It is that miraculous quality that has produced the proud sheltering and living tree whose branches have withstood the lightning strike of secession and the gale force winds of fascism and communism.

The rings of that tree are nourished by honesty and truth, warmed by love and justice, and rooted in respect and dignity. It is my belief that Frank Kameny’s fight to hold a job he did well and the passionate fight for dignity and respect that began at Stonewall were not isolated events. They were in fact the formation of a new ring of life on the American tree of liberty.

How privileged are we, in this generation, to stand upon their shoulders and carry forth their fight? We must not rest until our ring is secure. We shall be clear in our ends; we shall be honest and open; we shall work where our abilities allow; we shall continue to serve our country with bravery and distinction; we shall love who our hearts desire. And with the help of a President who supports our cause, the aid of courageous fellow country men and women who love liberty; and with God’s grace -- We Shall Prevail.

I would like to end on a personal note. I come from a family with a proud tradition of service. My father enlisted in the Marines before Pearl Harbor and served at Guadalcanal, and my uncle, for whom I am named, was killed in battle in the Pacific.

In the year before he died, my father told me that he didn’t know what all the fuss about gays in the Military was about. He said “we didn’t call 'em gays -- but they were there and they died as bravely as everyone else.” I know he was right. A good friend of mine was a Colonel who honorably served in the Middle East. His sacrifice and risk of life was no less dear than anyone. I ask America, where do you stand -- with his honorable service or with those who would make him lie to do so?

My family has never known divorce. My first partner of 10 years died after a protracted and grueling battle with AIDS that reduced a 6-foot-2 190-pound athlete to 90 pounds at death. I was his primary caregiver -- and I held him in my arms as he died. I would have gladly traded my life for his that night, just as I would do so now for my current partner of 12 years if ever need be. Were we married? No, but I dare anyone to say we were not in love. I was blessed by two supportive families and dear friends who honored our relationship. If I hadn’t been -- I shudder to think -- because no power on earth could have kept me from his side.

Again, I ask: Where do you stand? Honoring love as precious and true wherever you find it, or with those who would demean or deny it?

I urge you. Stand where you can be proud. Stand with service and truth. Stand with love. Stand for liberty and justice for all.

God Bless you and God Bless America.

Word! "Colorblind"

People who claim to be colorblind must lead a charmed life. Constantly numbing their senses with a self-congratulatory grey blob of vagueness, ignorance and neglect, the colorblind have it made. Turning a blind eye to the racism that people experience everyday may salve their conscience, but it wont end racism.

about the WORD! series:
Words. You cant escape them. They headline the evening news, buzz around the water cooler and blow up your cell. They invoke powerful images that convey values, beliefs and an understanding of how the world works. And when repeated, words shape how problems are defined and which solutions are pursued. Words. They whitewash. They blindside. They leave you seeing red. In this series, ColorLines Magazine looks at what we talk about when we talk about race.

As posted to RaceWire

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cool Orgs: Rural Renaissance Network

There's a rural renaissance taking place in a small town or rural community near you.

From artisan cheese makers to farm-stay bed & breakfasts, from Internet-connected free-lancers to retirees restoring native prairies, rural living has creatively reinvented itself for the 21st Century.

Welcome to the good life, filled with all the hard work, pioneering spirit and commitment to community that has contributed to a worldview revolution in our approach to the health of the land and nature -- on which we depend for our survival.

The Rural Renaissance Network is about celebrating these changes, providing resources for those who dream an American dream of a home in the country, and the inspiration and how-to information to make it a reality.

The Rural Renaissance Network is a program of Renewing the Countryside, dedicated to preserving the very foundation of the American character: a thriving and healthy rural America.

Check out Rural Renaissance Network HERE.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Today: Oil Region Indie Music Festival

The Oil Region Indie Music Festival is taking it to the streets Saturday for its third annual celebration that showcases local talent throughout the area.

The event, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m., will close down Seneca Street in Oil City for a free day full of original music, food, art and hands-on activities.

It's a scaled down version from the past two years, said Jerome Wincek, festival creator and featured musician. But we hope having it as a sort of street fair will allow people to become more involved.

In collaboration with the North Side Business Association and the Seneca Street Saturday Nights, this year's affair includes 18 performers ranging in genre from blues, rock and bluegrass to acoustic and big band. And with musicians arriving from Altoona, Pittsburgh and Erie, Wincek said Saturday should boast an eclectic mix of performers more specific to the region.

We've definitely gained more of an identity this year, we aren't just some random festival anymore, said Wincek, noting in past years the action spanned two days and was held in various spots throughout Oil City. It's more of an informal gathering of like-minded people just here to have fun.

Saturday's festival, co-sponsored by the Oil City Arts Council and Clarion-Venango Campus, will also feature local artists giving lessons and demonstrations on the street, in addition to extended business hours and special promotions at some downtown establishments.

People talk about how there is nothing ever going on downtown, well now there is, said George Cooley, a member of the artist relocation program. And this is the kind of stuff you want people to find when they come and visit your town.

Cooley, moving to the area nearly eight months ago from Massachusetts, said settling into Venango County has been a pleasure because of these individually tailored programs. Different from big cities such as Chicago and Boston, he added Oil City has a special flavor and is unique because of the attention it affords each person.

Per capita there is more going on here than in most places, said Cooley, who will provide festival-goers Saturday the opportunity to try their hand at a potters wheel. And that's what's made this work, taking a theory and making it into a reality, showing people things like this can and do happen.

The music festival, slated to take place until 9 p.m., includes performances at two different locations on Seneca Street, one in Pipeline Alley and one near Classy Catering. However, Wincek said visitors are encouraged to bring their own instruments and play wherever a space may allow.

A large tent in front of the National Transit Building will house local artwork and crafts and artist studios throughout the building will be available for use. Sign-ups from interested musicians for three additional collaborations with Seneca Street Saturday Nights, tentatively planned for July 11, Aug. 8 and Sept. 12, will also be collected throughout the day.

I'm very proud of what it's become, it's more than I thought it would ever be, said Wincek, joking that even during hard times, music is a free source of entertainment, happening regardless of economic woes. And seeing everybody come together for a crazy idea has been really reassuring.

In addition to Wincek's group, The Old Hats, other bands to play include Nathanial Custer, Remora Deign, Brian Morgante, Well Strung, Joy Ike, Jeremy Jack, Susette Jolley, Mitch Littler, Brian Stoltenburg, Secretly Plotting Your Burial, Newmen, Justin Parsons, Brooke Annibale and Seth Brewster.

A drum circle, open jam sessions, sidewalk chalk for children and massage demonstrations will also be available.

I'm happy to see another event growing and flourishing in the area, because it's pretty amazing we can do this with almost no money, said Libby Williams, co-chair of the Oil City Arts Council. I just hope people of all ages come to see what it's all about.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick's Journey Of Faith

In Barbara Rick's acclaimed documentary, IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, a most unlikely and very funny rebel — an American nun — finds herself at the center of a human rights storm with leaders of one of the world’s most revered institutions, the Roman Catholic Church.

The film chronicles the true story of Sister Jeannine Gramick, who is defying a Vatican edict that she shut down her compassionate ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics, and silence herself permanently on the subject of homosexuality. Her battle takes her all the way to Rome where she attempts an audience with her key adversary over the years — none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the Inquisitor who would become Pope Benedict XVI.

Sister Jeannine has worked within the church for more than thirty years on behalf of the LGBT community and its fight for acceptance, recognition, and equality. When issued this ultimatum from Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II — denounce homosexuality or lose everything — quietly and with respect, she refused.

"I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right," she says. "To me this is a matter of conscience."

Legendary filmmaker Albert Maysles was so moved by Sister Jeannine’s story he offered to shoot it. Executive produced by Humanitas Prize winner Tom Fontana, the film has won support from patrons Ellen DeGeneres, Susan Sarandon, Trudie Styler, Agnes Gund, Deborah Santana, among many others.

Called ‘a masterpiece’ by Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, ‘a wonderful film about a sensational human being’ by playwright Terrence McNally, and ‘excellent… enormous charm’ by Variety, audiences are embracing IN GOOD CONSCIENCE with standing ovations at sold-out festival screenings around the world. TimeOut NY magazine calls Sister Jeannine Gramick ‘a freedom fighter on the frontlines of the cultural wars,” adding, “This gripping documentary by Barbara Rick is a must-see.”

The film debuted at IFP/Lincoln Center’s Independents Night series in New York City in 2004. It won the Audience Favorite Award for Best Feature Documentary at the Philadelphia Int’l Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Best Documentary at the ReelPride Michigan Festival and Honorable Mention at NewFest for its ‘inspirational and stirring portrait of a woman who has defied censorship to speak out against homophobia and discrimination.’ It was selected as the Closing Night Film at the Queer Screen Documentary Festival in Sydney, Australia and FilmOut San Diego and is featured in the Real to Reel segment of the PBS program In The Life in the fall of 2005. IN GOOD CONSCIENCE is profiled in the Winter 2006 issue of the Yale Divinity School journal, Reflections.

As global debate continues to explode over gay civil rights, this laugh-out-loud film follows Sister Jeannine throughout the U.S. all the way to Rome where she faces grave consequences to her life-defining decision to defy the Vatican.

Learn more and see clips HERE.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This Is What True Political Leadership Looks Like

Gays Deserve Equality

by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach:

I recently drafted and am shortly introducing legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. I do so now for several reasons.

First, because many other states are moving to consider this issue, including Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C., which have recently passed legislation. New York, New Hampshire and New Jersey soon will.

Further, a bill banning same-sex marriage was recently introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate, and it is important to provide the Legislature with a timely pro-civil rights, pro-family alternative.

But mostly, each day in which gay Pennsylvanians are denied their fundamental human rights is a profound injustice.

The case for same-sex or gay marriage is simple. The state and federal government confer hundreds of benefits upon married couples that are unavailable to single people. This is done to facilitate and encourage marriage, which benefits our entire society.

We should be doing with gay couples what we do with straight couples; encouraging them to enter permanent, monogamous, stable and legally recognized unions. The arguments against gay marriage are much more complicated.

First, we are told that we need to protect traditional marriage. But from what? What bad thing has happened to straight couples in states where gay couples can marry? Studies show straight-marriage rates remain the same in those states. So do divorce rates, birth rates and rates of domestic violence. There is no change whatsoever in the status, behavior or happiness of married heterosexual couples when a married gay couple moves in down the street.

We hear that some organizations that disapprove of gay marriage might act out if such marriages are allowed. For example, in Massachusetts a Catholic adoption agency didn't want to adopt to gay couples and closed down. This argument is akin to the "Heckler's Veto" concept.

In First Amendment law, some have tried to ban certain speech by saying it would upset the listener who would then heckle or otherwise cause a disturbance. For example, if civil rights workers were allowed to march in the South, that would upset local racists and they might throw rocks.

The courts have consistently rejected the argument that threats based on disapproval were a justification to ban speech. Similarly, there is not a justification to stop people from marrying the person they love.

We also hear the frankly strange argument that if we legalize gay marriage we will somehow have no choice but to legalize polygamy, incest and inter-species marriage. Not so. We draw reasonable lines all the time in all areas of the law. You can drive 65, but not 95. You can keep a gun, but not a truck bomb. Similarly, you can marry one partner, but not an aardvark.

Any law involves line drawing. It seems reasonable that the line should be drawn where it allows each person the opportunity to have a life partner.

The fact is that there is no reasonable alternative to recognized same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples exist and always will. Many of them are raising children.

Many opponents of gay marriage preach that children should not be raised out of wedlock, but the one sure way to raise the number of children being raised out of wedlock is to deny their parents the chance to marry. They also urge young people to delay sexual relationships until marriage. But if gay people can't marry, what would they tell a gay teen about when it is appropriate for them to have a sexual relationship?

Gay couples are denied many of the basic rights and services straight couples take for granted. This includes everything from Social Security survivor benefits to mandatory leave to care for a sick partner. Further, they and their children are forced to live under a legal framework that treats their families as somehow not legitimate. There are literally thousands of such unjust burdens placed upon people who want nothing more than to start a family. Simple decency demands an end to this.

I am under no illusions that this bill will become law in the short term. However, I also have no doubt that 15 years from now same-sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states, and people will be as ashamed that we ever banned it as they are now that we ever banned inter-racial marriage. My hope is that by introducing this bill now, we will start the discussion we need to have and bring the day of equality a little closer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gay Marriage Law to be Debated in Pennsylvania Senate

by PinkNews.co.uk

On June 3, as the Governor of New Hampshire made gay marriage legal, a Pennsylvania Democrat Senator has introduced the state's first bill to legalise gay marriage. But at the same time a Republican Senator will propose a constitutional ban on gay marriage saying it could lead to polygamy.

Democrat Senator Daylin Leach's says that the current ban on gay marriage robs gays and lesbians couples fundamental rights such as inheritance, making medical decisions and even the right to visit their spouse in hospital.

Writing in the Philadelphia Daily News, Senator Leach said: "The case for same-sex marriage is simple. The state and federal government confer hundreds of benefits on married couples that are unavailable to single people. This encourages marriage, which benefits society. We should be doing with gay couples what we do with straight couples: encouraging them to enter permanent, monogamous, stable, legally recognized unions."

He added: "The arguments against gay marriage are more complicated.
"We're told we need to 'protect traditional marriage.' But what's happened to straight couples in states where gay couples can marry? Studies show straight-marriage rates remain the same. So do divorce rates, birth rates and domestic violence. There's no change in the status, behaviour or happiness of married heterosexual couples when a married gay couple moves in down the street."

"There is no reasonable alternative to same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples will always exist. Many are raising children. Many opponents of gay marriage preach that children shouldn't be raised out of wedlock, but the one sure way to raise the number of children being raised out of wedlock is to deny their parents the chance to marry. They also urge young people to delay sex until marriage.
"But if gay people can't marry, what would they tell a gay teen about when it is appropriate for him to have a sexual relationship? "

But at the same time, Republican Senator John Eichelberger has said he will introduce a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He says that this will prevent court decisions as in Iowa and briefly in California that gave gay couples the right to marry.

Senator Eichelberger says his proposal is to prevent polygamy and other forms of marriage. "The same logic that's being used for same-sex marriage is the argument that would be used for the next form of ‘marriage," he told The Bulletin

Two similar measures have failed in recent years.

Pennsylvania has one of the oldest populations in the country, with older citizens still showing high disapproval of gay marriage. It is also heavily Catholic.

However, it has been tipped as one of the states which will recognise gay marriage soon.

Nate Silver, one of the nation's top analysts of political data, recently created a map predicting when all 50 states would legalise gay marriage.

Based on factors such as religious power and voter demographics, he predicted that Pennsylvania will legalise gay marriage in 2012.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Equality = Good Economics


LOS ANGELES – Data from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law show that New Hampshire’s decision to extend marriage to same-sex couples will bring an economic windfall to the State. With five New England states now recognizing marriage for same-sex couples, the entire region will experience an overall economic boost of almost $400 million.

Approximately half of New Hampshire’s same-sex couples, or 4,703 couples, will marry within three years. Their weddings will generate over $14.5 million in new spending.

New Hampshire joins four other New England states in extending marriage to same-sex couples. Below we also present our estimates of the number of couples expected to marry in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont and the revenue their weddings will bring to each state over three years. For Massachusetts, we use official marriage counts from the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics and survey data to measure their actual wedding spending. We estimate the total wedding spending of couples who live in New England to top $163 million.

In addition to those weddings, we project that 75,000 same-sex couples from other states will travel to the New England region to marry. Over 24,000 of these couples will come from New York since their out-of-state marriage will be officially recognized at home. We estimate that each out-of-state couple will spend $3,000 while in New England on wedding and other tourist expenditures, which will result in a total of $228 million in new spending for the region. Combined with in-state couples, wedding spending in New England will total approximately $391.3 million.

The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policymakers and the public. This study can be accessed at the Williams Institute website, www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Infamous "Ex-Gay" Study Debunked

For decades, anti-gay organizations (including Venango County's Lighthouse Ministries, Christian Radio Station WAWN, and American Family Association of Pennsylvania) have gleefully pointed to Masters & Johnson's 1979 book, "Homosexuality in Perspective", where the famed sex therapist couple claimed they could cure homosexuality.

Sadly, they had released their results on NBC's Meet the Press, which harmed countless GLBT people and fueled the so-called "ex-gay" industry.

In his groundbreaking new book, "Masters of Sex", author Thomas Maier discovered through investigative reporting that the results of Masters & Johnson's study were entirely fabricated.

One can not overstate the importance of Maier's findings. They undo the very underpinnings of the "ex-gay" industry, that has touted "Homosexuality in Perspective" as "proof" that one could"change."

In an exclusive one minute video, Maier discusses his revelation with Truth Wins Out.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Responsibility For What We All Let Come To Pass

We Hope and Pray that the Incendiary Anti-GLBT Rhetoric of Venango County's Own Christian Radio Station WAWN and Locally-Headquartered American Family Association of Pennsylvania Do Not Have Such Tragic Results Here

By Mary Alice Carr

The first time I appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor," in 2004, I sat across from Bill O'Reilly in awkward silence while he shuffled papers and took notes.

Finally, he glanced up and acknowledged my existence. "Thank you for coming on," he said. "Most people don't have the guts."

I said, "Well, you are one of the most-watched new shows on cable."

He swiftly retorted, "The most-watched new show on cable TV."

Let's face it: Bill O'Reilly is not only aware of his power and his reach, he's damn proud of them.

So I went on his show, time and again, even though many other progressives discouraged me. I went because I know what O'Reilly knows: It's the most-watched show, and I thought it was imperative that his audience also hear our viewpoint.

I also know that when you have a bully pulpit, you need to be held accountable for what you preach.

O'Reilly is being incredibly disingenuous when he claims that he bears no responsibility for others' actions in the killing of Dr. George Tiller on Sunday. When you tell an audience of millions over and over again that someone is an executioner, you cannot feign surprise when someone executes that person.

You cannot claim to hold no responsibility for what other people do when you call for people to besiege Tiller's clinic, as O'Reilly did in January 2008. And this was after Tiller had been shot in both arms and after his clinic had been bombed.

O'Reilly knew that people wanted Tiller dead, and he knew full well that many of those people were avid viewers of his show. Still, he fanned the flames. Every time I appeared on his show, I received vitriolic and hate-filled e-mails. And if I received those messages directly, I can only imagine what type of feedback O'Reilly receives. He knows that his words incite violence.

That is why I made a personal pledge to no longer sit across from him after he called for people to converge on Tiller's clinic. I realized that appearing on the show with him would only legitimize his speech and that no good would come of my efforts.

So on Tuesday morning, when an O'Reilly producer called and asked me to come on the show to "discuss the reasons why women have late-term abortions," I held fast to my pledge. I told his producer what I thought: that I had had that conversation on air with O'Reilly five years earlier and that he agreed with me at the time that the decision was between a woman and her doctor. That O'Reilly then went on to pretend we had never talked about it and continued condemning women and doctors. That the nation and those of us in the pro-choice community are reeling from the murder of a doctor who helped women. That we hold O'Reilly responsible for helping to create a climate in which hate was allowed to fester. That I refused to dignify his irresponsible behavior, not to mention his deplorable reaction to Tiller's shooting.

O'Reilly had the opportunity to apologize for his words, and he didn't. He had the opportunity to say that this tragic outcome was something about which he felt sorry. He didn't. When restraint and perspective were called for, he fanned the flames higher. In fact, on his June 1 "Talking Points," he played the martyr, saying his critics were seeking to stifle any criticism of "people like Tiller -- that and hating Fox News is the real agenda here." On his show the next day -- the show I declined to appear on -- he again called a murdered man "Dr. Killer."

I admit that after the call from the producer, I hesitated. What an opportunity, I thought, to sit across from O'Reilly and call him out for what he has done and where his responsibility lies. To speak for everyone in America who is hurt and scared and angry. I have never been a Fox News hater; clearly, I've used the show for the benefit of my movement and my organization, and I've answered his questions on some of the toughest issues around. Didn't I have the right to also call him out for his speech?

But then I realized I just couldn't. Because if the murder of a man in a house of worship wasn't enough to make Bill O'Reilly repent, what hope did I have?

The writer is vice president of communications for NARAL Pro-Choice New York.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reminder: 17th Annual Erie Pride Picnic Saturday, June 13th

Once again, the Erie Pride Picnic will be held at Presque Isle State Park at the Rotary Pavilion.

It is being held the SECOND Saturday in June (June 13) and will run from 1 PM to 6 PM

Check out all the details HERE.

Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum Offers Up Some Racist Dating Advice

The Republican gave some dating advice, then took the opportunity to say that African-American men aren't interested in marriage.

By Tana Ganeva, AlterNet

This past Monday, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was tapped by Fox news to discuss the crucial, timely matter of Obama's Saturday night date. Santorum covered the relative advantages of various date destinations (Broadway or the corner bar?). He philosophically mused about what makes a marriage special (it's, in fact, the mundane!). And, he also took the opportunity to casually propagate some terrible racial myths and stereotypes (via Salon):

Number one, I think it's great that the president has a date night with his wife. He's a role model. He's a role model in particular, whether he likes it or not, in the African-American community.

And you have an African-American community, particularly in the poor inner city areas, we're looking at out of wedlock birthrates in three quarters to 75 percent (sic) of children being born out of wedlock. Marriage is an institution that's a bridge too far for too many African-American women and is not desirable among African-American males.

I know this doesn't need explaining, but just for fun: Here Santorum taps into centuries-old stereotypes that paint black men as sexually deviant and irresponsible, and hence to blame for the existence of the black underclass (as opposed to blatant as well as structural racism, the lack of support for all poor people and families, a legacy of violence and discrimination, etc. etc.)

Marriage is an institution that is "not desirable" for African-American men? Really?

Santorum also slips up by saying "African-American women and men", without qualifying the statement with some sort of reference to class status -- thereby implying that African-Amercans are naturally averse to marriage, regardless of class, social status, or education. This also nicely dovetails with classic racist myths about African-American sexuality.

Anyway, nice to know that social conservatives can deeply embarrass themselves and the GOP even when talking about something as trivial as the President's date night.

Here's the rest of Santorum's wise take on modern relationships in case you need some dating advice:

I think he has to realize that flying to New York is self-indulgent. Go down to the corner bar and have a drink, a shot and a beer. It does not matter where you go with your wife, is that it's with your wife. That's really the point... I would make the argument, the simpler the date, the more normal it is.

It connects to people. Here is what you do. Here is how you do it. And it is not going to Broadway. All right, once in awhile, you do something special. But it is mundane that really makes the marriage special, but because you are with your wife the mundane isn't mundane. It's special.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Church-Based Hate

by David P. Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

"'FAG' ran across my chest in letters eight inches high," recalled Jared Horsford, a student at Texas Tech and one of 40 gays and lesbians who tell their stories in this book. "I stared in the mirror, bitter irony rolling through my mind about how illegible it was, bloody and backwards, in the bathroom mirror. I wouldn't make the same mistake a few months later when I carved 'i hate you'—backwards this time—across the same skin."

In high school, Jared was a basketball star, student government president, church youth group leader and valedictorian. But Jared was also attracted to males rather than females. "So I fought. I got counseling; I fasted; I prayed; I dated a girl from church; I worked at a Christian summer camp." But nothing worked. He spiraled between attending ex-gay meetings and engaging in anonymous gay sex. When his desires persisted, he would start "feeling defeated because I wasn't getting 'healed,' and go home and cut myself."

Matt Comer, who came from a conservative Baptist family in North Carolina, began experiencing same-sex attraction in his preteen years. Matt's preacher said from the pulpit things like: "Put all the queers on a ship, cut a hole in the side and send it out to sea." The contrast between his sexuality and the beliefs of his church and family drove Matt to thoughts of suicide. But that same religious faith told him that suicide "would have sent me straight to the depths of hell, landing me in the same spot as being gay. So, I turned to begging and pleading."

Lying on his bed at night, "crying and praying," Matt would ask God to spare him eternal damnation if he tried his very best not to feel attraction to males. But it didn't work. Finally Matt told the truth to his parents. "My mother said I was crazy and sick and told me I was going to hell." Eventually, however, his mother changed her views. "Today," Matt writes, "she is my strength and my most avid supporter, and I know that she loves me no matter what."

The coeditor of this collection, Mitchell Gold, grew up Jewish in Trenton, New Jersey, in the 1960s. He spent his teenage years in a cloud of depression, loneliness, fear and confusion. He tried to pass as straight but was unable to sustain the fiction. "I made a pact with myself: If I could not change and want to be with a woman by the time I was 21, I would commit suicide."

Like a number of others who tell their stories in this book, Gold moved beyond suicidal thoughts into serious planning. Finally he received psychiatric care that helped him toward self-acceptance. "The number one reason I work toward equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is because I do not want kids to go through what I did."

What exactly do such young people go through? Gold and coeditor Mindy Drucker offer not just stories but summaries of some key data. They include the following:

• Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds; for every young person who takes his or her own life, 20 more try.

• Gay teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

• Forty-five percent of gay men and 20 percent of lesbians surveyed had been victims of verbal and physical assaults in secondary school specifically because of their sexual orientation.

• Gay youth are at higher risk of being kicked out of their homes and turning to life on the streets for survival. They are more likely than their heterosexual peers to start using tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs at an earlier age.

• Twenty-eight percent of gay students drop out of school—more than three times the national average.

All the stories in this volume focus on the particular problems faced by teenagers from religious families and congregations. Some of the stories are contemporary; others tell of long-ago hurts.

Jarrod Parker woke up one morning at Boy Scout camp (having apparently been drugged the night before) with the word "faggot" written across his forehead, "a picture of a penis at the corner of my mouth," and further obscenities and drawings scrawled over his chest and back. Jorge Valencia, who works at a teen crisis and suicide prevention hotline, recalls getting calls from youths whose parents had told them, "I would rather have a dead son than a gay son." Rodney Powell, a black homosexual who marched during the civil rights movement, says: "I suffered more fear and numbing anxiety from my 'secret' as a teenager than I did from racism and segregation."

Two of the stories are told by the parents of young adult children who died. Mary Lou Wallner lost her 29-year-old daughter Anna to suicide. Wallner was estranged from her daughter because of her inability to come to terms with her daughter's sexuality. She writes that the last communication she had from her daughter was a letter telling her that "I was her mother only in a biological way, that I had done colossal damage to her soul with my shaming words, and that she did not want to, and did not have to, forgive me." Wallner decided to "respect Anna's wishes and give her the space she was asking for." The next communication she received was the news that Anna was dead.

"What do I wish I'd done? What would I do now? Grab my toothpaste, credit card and car keys, jump in the car, drive to where she lives and tell her I love her no matter what. I did not do that, and now I never can." Wallner and her husband now run an organization whose goal is to reunite parents with their gay children.

Elke Kennedy was awakened at 4:30 one morning in May 2007 with a call from a South Carolina hospital, where her 20-year-old son Sean had been brought. "When I finally got to see my son, my knees buckled. He was lying flat on his back, stitches on his upper lip, blood on his hair and neck, hooked up to a respirator. As I stood there holding his hand, he felt so cold. I wanted to hug him, to keep him warm. I kissed him, telling him I was there and that I loved him so much and to please wake up. I remember praying. A doctor came in and explained that the tests had revealed Sean had severe brain damage and his injuries were not survivable."

What had happened to Sean? "As he was leaving a bar, a man named Stephen Moller got out of the car and called Sean a faggot. Then he punched Sean so hard he broke Sean's facial bones and separated his brain from his brain stem. Sean fell backward onto the pavement, and his brain ricocheted in his head."

Sean died. Moller was convicted only of involuntary manslaughter and was jailed in November 2007. Although his request for early parole was denied in February of this year, he will finish his modest sentence in July.

Gold and his organization "Faith in America" believe that religious hostility is at the basis of violence against gays. If the problem is religion, then religion must change.

Religious groups have a First Amendment right to teach their convictions about homosexuality. By law, if they want to teach that homosexuality is wrong, that is their business. Gay advocates usually recognize this right while asking that traditional religious communities not bring such convictions into the public arena.

Gold takes a more confrontational tack. He believes that the heart of the issue is precisely what religious groups teach within their own walls and what religious families teach within their own homes. He pleads for an end to the "misuse of religion to harm gay people."

As an evangelical Christian whose career has been spent in the South, I must say I find it scandalous that the most physically and psychologically dangerous place to be (or even appear to be) gay or lesbian in America is in the most religiously conservative families, congregations and regions of this country. Most often these are Christian contexts. Many of the most disturbing stories in this volume come from the Bible Belt. This marks an appalling Christian moral failure.

In contrast to the love and mercy that Jesus exemplified, Christian communities offer young lesbians and gays hate and rejection. Sometimes that rejection is declared directly from the pulpit. But even when church leaders attempt to be more careful, to "hate the sin but love the sinner" (as that hackneyed formulation has it), the love gets lost. Perhaps we need to focus on refining our ability to love; maybe we are not actually capable of compartmentalizing hate.

Christ's command that we love our neighbors, especially the most despised and rejected, means that we must respond immediately to the crisis outlined in this book. Such love requires not only that we be vigilant about the impact of individual and congregational words and actions, but also that we consider seriously the broader ramifications of Christian activism that seeks to oppose all social advances for gay and lesbian people. Many Christians act as if opposing gays and lesbians is fundamental to the church's mission, which leads many gay and lesbian people to perceive Christianity as their mortal enemy. Is this how we want to be perceived?

Reading about the murder of Sean Kennedy in Greenville, South Carolina, helped cement a conclusion for me: there is very likely a gap between what traditionalist church leaders may intend to say when they discuss biblical references to homosexuality or the issue of gay marriage and what those listening to them actually hear. Such discussions may inflame the less discerning in the pews and lead them toward hateful and contemptuous attitudes and behavior. We must be extraordinarily careful about how we express ourselves, especially in a polarized cultural climate.

We who are Christians must love our homosexual neighbors. We must treat them as we would want to be treated. We must remember that as we do to them, we do to Jesus (Matt. 25:31ff.). We must oppose their harassment and bullying in schools, churches and clubs—everywhere. We must rebuke any Christian who speaks or acts hatefully toward gays and lesbians. We must teach Christian parents of gay children to communicate unconditional love and under no circumstances evict them from either their hearts or their homes, no matter what they believe about the moral significance of homosexual inclinations. We must seek opportunities in the church to build relationships with those who so often have encountered Christian hatred.

Crisis recounts the sad stories of dozens of young people who, like the biblical Esau, cried for a blessing from their parents, friends and churches. All too often they have not received it. All too often they have been left broken, rejected as human beings—at the hands of Christians and in the name of the Bible. Obviously we must extend basic acceptance to gay youths such as these, as well as Christian love.

Moreover, after reading these stories, I feel that Christians have something they need to request from God and from gays and lesbians, and that is forgiveness.