Thursday, July 30, 2009

Setting The Stage For Tragedy

This Sounds Too Eerily Close To Home Here In Pennsylvania.

from Truth Wins Out:

On Sunday, The New York Times featured a chilling article on how fundamentalist Christians stalked, harassed and ultimately murdered Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, who they taunted with the nickname, "Tiller the Baby Killer."

A lone gunman, who used the e-mail name "ServantofMessiah", shot Tiller while he ushered at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he and his wife were active members. Prior to Tiller's assassination, the "loving" faithful had put bullets in his arms and bombed his clinic.

Unfortunately, with Tiller's controversial clinic finally out of business, the lesson for the loony may be that legal force is more effective than lobbying. In the Times article, Mark Geitzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, expressed this sentiment when he said during a phone conversation, "God has his own way...but you can't say our prayers weren't answered."

Tiller's death vividly illustrates the danger posed by the violent language and imagery used by fanatics, who believe they are personally entrusted to enforce God's will. What concerns me is that the aggressive tactics used against abortion providers are slowly seeping into the anti-gay movement.

As the wider culture becomes more accepting, homophobes are growing increasingly frustrated, which has led to bolder and more confrontational actions. Are anti-gay leaders egging on unstable followers to attack gay people or provoking gays to defend themselves so they can manufacture martyrdom and justify retaliation?

At the Dore Alley Fair in San Francisco last weekend, a number of muscular Christians wearing Jesus shirts reportedly tried to march through the event thumping Bibles and waving signs.

In Charlotte, Dr. Michael Brown, (pictured left) the founder of the Coalition of Conscience, organized several hundred followers in red shirts (top picture) to descend like uninvited locusts on Charlotte Pride last week under the banner, "God Has a Better Way."

Aside from the pompous name of their demonstration, the protesters confronted gay people and browbeat them with cherry picked Bible verses. Brown's ostensible reason for marshaling the troops was to introduce Pride attendees to his angry version of God.

But, of course, the notion that gay people in conservative North Carolina needed Brown to educate them about religious fundamentalism was farcical. Indeed, many of the people at Pride had only found personal acceptance after long journeys to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality.

No, Brown was really there to besiege Charlotte's gay residents with his hostile hordes. His group's in-your-face presence was designed to disrupt peaceful assembly and make Pride attendees feel guilty and uncomfortable so that they might skip future gay events.

Fortunately, the pious proselytizers were on their best behavior after the militant writings and actions of Brown came under intense scrutiny by local Q-Notes editor Matt Comer. In his research, Comer found that Brown started his FIRE School of Ministry to "raise up a holy army of uncompromising spirit-filled radicals who will shake an entire generation with the gospel of Jesus by life or death."

In a vacuum, such religious language may be viewed as a relatively benign rhetorical flourish. However, when followers are portrayed as holy warriors in a life and death struggle against a minority group that is falsely accused of working to undermine freedom of religion, the seeds of potential disaster are intentionally being sown.

In advertising his rally, Brown proclaimed that the "hour is urgent" and that Christians must "turn back the tide of homosexual activism." In a written statement following his intolerance invasion of Pride, Brown wrote, "Enough is enough to the destructive goals of gay activism...we say it stops in Charlotte."

Most alarming are these charlatans' deliberate perpetuation of paranoia by trumpeting alleged religious persecution that exists only in their warped minds. For example, in his statement Brown accused gay people of "trying to put Christians in the closet." And, he capped it off by saying that gay people are "tampering with the foundations of human society."

Brown tries to cover his tracks by sprinkling his apocalyptic rhetoric with calls for non-violence. Good orators, however, understand the principle of "layering" messages. If in one sentence you speak of violence and in the next of non-violence, the listener will almost always embrace the words that support his or her belief system.

Dr. Brown isn't naïve and surely understands that the GLBT masses will not retreat into the closet unless events conspire to make coming out a blood sport. Short of extreme bullying and brutality he'll never accomplish his lost cause of "stopping" progress on gay rights in Charlotte.

Brown, of course, doesn't actually have to make an overt pitch for mayhem. Simply by inciting his flock he is setting the stage for future tragedy. It is time for Brown and his comrades to abort their increasingly hostile and combative tactics before it leads to more wanton death in the name of abundant life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Great Nationwide Kiss In - Coming To Venango County?

We are two bloggers - David Badash and David Mailloux - who believe that any person anywhere should be able to kiss whomever they want, whenever they want.

We both believe that there's not enough love and affection in the world, because most people are afraid to show it. We should never be afraid of brief, unimposing displays of affection. There is nothing wrong with a hug, a kiss on the mouth, a kiss on the cheek.

Together, with the help of Willow Witte and the national Join The Impact group, we are coordinating a nationwide event on August 15, 2009 at 2 p.m., EDT (or 11 a.m., PDT) It's called "The Great Nationwide Kiss-In" and you're invited - all of you! - to either plan a Kiss-In event in your city or town, or simply participate in an existing one.

Okay, you ask, but what does this mean? What is a Kiss-In?

Well, it's quite simple. On the suggested date and time, in a public place - whether it's a park or plaza or popular thoroughfare in your city or town - you'll bring your husband or wife or partner or boyfriend or girlfriend or good friend, and at 2 p.m., you'll kiss. It's one of the simplest things in the world to do!

Why, you ask? Why are you doing this?

After incidents in San Antonio, TX, El Paso, TX and Salt Lake City, UT - where different gay and lesbian couples were harassed or detained by law enforcement or other people for the simple act of kissing in a public place - we need to make a strong statement to everyone everywhere: kissing is not a bad thing, nor has it ever been. It's not vulgar or inappropriate. It's a sign of affection that is as old as time itself. And it's a beautiful thing that we share with our loved ones every single day.

The more cities with corresponding events, and the more people who participate in those events, the stronger the statement.

You can read more about why we've chosen to coordinate this, by reading our blog entries below:

David Badash: The New Civil Rights Movement

David Mailloux: Anyone Feel Like Kissing?

If you're interested in organizing a Great Nationwide Kiss-In event, and your city or town is not listed below, please send us a message at We'll make sure you get all the information you need to get started as soon as possible. If your city or town is already listed, we'll set you up with organizers so you can give them a hand.

If you're interested in participating in a Kiss-In event (remember, ALL are welcome to attend and participate, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender identity), then look at the list below to see if an event is being planned near you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not Making Progress In Pennsylvania

This Alarming Comment, Posted Anonymously In Response To Today's Earlier Article About Progress Being Made In Pennsylvania On Fairness, Freedom and Equality for the State's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Residents, Is A Stark Reminder Of Just How Much Work There Is Still To Do!

It Comes From "Anonymous" Somewhere in Northwest Pennsylvania:

"Take your demented life style and put it in the bath house where it belongs. I'm sick and tired of you perverts trying to make normal people think you're normal. This is why people have had it with you fags."

Does This Represent The Venango County That We Know And Love?

If Not, What Do We Do To Overcome It?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Making Progress In Pennsylvania

from The Patriot-News:

Life for gays in the midstate has gotten better, said residents who attended PrideFest of Central PA in Harrisburg on Saturday.

"Five years ago, I never thought I'd see anyone proposing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania," said Sabrina Kreps of Harrisburg, who was at the festival with her partner, Patty Wilson of Lancaster.

William O'Donnell of Mechanicsburg said it seemed to him that fewer protesters were at Saturday's event than in years past.

"Our community has definitely come a long way," said O'Donnell, who sings in the Harrisburg Men's Chorus.

About a half-dozen protesters, holding large signs, staged a counter-parade, walking slowly northward on the sidewalk along North Front Street as the PrideFest parade worked its way south down the middle of the street.

One protester, with a microphone and public-address system, engaged in verbal jousting with each band, float and marching and performing group that passed.

Kreps could remember a time not long ago when it seemed that the only places gays could go in the midstate and feel socially accepted was the handful of "gay bars."

But these days, "I find my friends are hanging out in mainstream bars" more often and feeling more comfortable doing so, Kreps said.

She said there's still a long way to go. Her decision to be open about her homosexuality has cost Kreps her relationship with her natural family, she said.

"I had to find a new family. This is my chosen family. This is home," Kreps said, referring to the people and couples strolling up and down South Riverfront Park as part of the festival.

Observers noted how many young people were at the festival and how they seemed at ease with their sexuality. Wilson said it wasn't that easy for her growing up, and those memories will always remain.

"I'm old-school lesbian, and I put rainbow stickers on my car," whereas a lot of young gay people don't feel the need to do that, Wilson said.

Yet, Kreps said that there is still hostility and prejudice, and that there is a need for groups such as Common Roads, which helps gay and transgender youth come to grips with their sexuality. There are still too many young gay people committing suicide because of oppression, Kreps said.

She said the festival is a good way for gay youth and gays in general to learn about the resources and support services in this area.

"I have people call me asking, 'Do you know a counselor who is gay friendly?'" Kreps said. She said that's because professionals don't always feel comfortable advertising such services outside of events such as the festival.

The festival was held inside a fenced area along South Riverfront Park, where attendees paid $7 to enter.

Mark Smith, the parade chairman, estimated that the festival crowd would be at least as large as the 5,000 people who attended in 2008.

The annual PrideFest has been held since 1992. Smith said there were 50 parade entries this year compared to 42 last year. The parade was added to PrideFest in 2006.

"We had four marching bands this year, which was a first," Smith said. He also noted activities being held during this year's festival marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn protest in New York City in 1969. That event is considered a milestone for the gay rights movement in the United States.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Are You Listening?

In case people out there are craving alternatives to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the local nutcases, WAWN "Christian" radio, there are excellent resources online to get real news and news that includes our lives.

Ohio Majority Radio comes out of Columbus. It is a collage of many nationally broadcast progressive news programs.

Some of the shows that it broadcasts are

These shows all carry a different tone, but the content is similar. The journalism and commentary include discussions of liberal progressive politics, as well and gay, lesbian and trans issues.

I really love this web site. Queer Music Heritage.

This show presents the very best in gay, lesbian and trans music in a weekly show.

There are numerous gay themed radio stations online like Pride Radio.

Bear Radio

My Lesbian Radio

And Gender Talk

There are many others. They range from fluffy disco music to serious news sites. Just look them up on your search engine and then turn off that TV and get into what's really happening in the world.


Moving ever closer to total homosexual domination of the planet, (hey I can dream can't I?)

Jim Ru

Saturday, July 25, 2009

More From The "Evangelical Christian Family Values" Amusement Park

Self-Proclaimed "Family Values" Senator in Tennessee Involved in Hetero-Sex Scandal, Extortion Expected to Step Down from Senate Committee

from FOX13 Memphis:

Senator Paul Stanley helped TBI Investigators set up a man who is accused of blackmailing him for $10,000.

According to the arrest affidavit, Joel Palmer Watts tried to extort $10,000 out of Senator Stanley in exchange for a data card containing nude pictures of a woman both men were allegedly having a relationship with.

TBI says that the woman is 23 year old McKensie Morrison. Morrison is a student at Austin Peay State University and an intern for the 2009 legislative session.

According to the affidavit, Watts discovered pictures that showed the young woman in compromising positions in Senator Stanley's Nashville apartment.

The TBI says Watts then began contacting Stanley wanting to exchange the memory card for money and secrecy.

The senator is a married father of two, well known for his emphasis on family values.

Instead, Stanley contacted the TBI and authorities set up an exchange at a Nashville restaurant in April of this year.

"That was a controlled delivery. Of course there were a lot of TBI agents there when the exchange took place. When the exchange happened, that's when TBI agents arrested Mr. Watts for extortion and theft."

The TBI adds that the young woman was cooperative with the investigation and investigators have no reason to believe she was in on the extortion.

It is unclear at this point why this has been kept quiet until now.

A Nashville newspaper reports Stanley is planning to step down as chairman of the senate commerce committee.

Statement from Senator Paul Stanley:

Unfortunately, I am the victim and a witness to crime in an ongoing investigation. At this time, I have been advised by authorities and the District Attorney’s office not to comment. There is already misinformation being inferred regarding this matter which I look forward to clearing up at the appropriate time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Good Old Traditional Family Values

By Jon Gambrell for the Associated Press:

TEXARKANA, Ark. – A woman who says she was a child bride of evangelist Tony Alamo told jurors Wednesday that the minister had so many partners that he had to schedule when he would have sex with them.

The woman, now 30 and living in Florida, said she was a third-generation Alamo follower into adulthood — until the Arkansas-based pastor took an 8-year-old as his latest bride. At one point, the woman said, she objected when Alamo graphically described how he fondled the girl as she held a stuffed animal.

"He told me to shut up and that I shouldn't question what `the Lord told me to do,'" the woman said.

Federal prosecutors accuse Alamo, 74, of transporting five girls across state lines for sex with him between 1994 and 2005. The woman who testified Wednesday said she traveled to Tennessee, West Virginia and toward California when she was underage to be available to Alamo. The California trip abruptly ended before they arrived, she said.

Alamo's lawyers suggested that she agreed to testify against her former pastor because the Justice Department paid for two weeks of counseling at a mental health center that caters to former cult members

"There wasn't anything done that helped create in your mind an image of Mr. Alamo as a demon?" chief defense lawyer Don Ervin asked.

"I didn't need help with anything like that," the woman replied.

Defense lawyers say the government has targeted the ministry, and Alamo says the trial is part of a Vatican-led conspiracy against him. But lawyers offered no challenge to witness claims Wednesday that Alamo married and had sex with the underage girls, something the evangelist claimed was a commandment from the Lord.

The 30-year-old witness said how often Alamo would schedule sex with his female followers varied on where he was and how many were with him when he was traveling. Prosecutors allege that some girls were brought to him for sex while he was awaiting a 1994 trial on a tax evasion charge.

When Alamo was arrested in Arizona last September to face the sex-crime charges, federal agents said he had several women traveling with him, none of whom were minors.

The woman said children at the compound were taught an Alamo-approved curriculum and that they were separated by gender by the time she reached the fifth grade.

"He said he didn't want, as he put it, any hanky-panky between boys and girls," the woman said.

In her earlier testimony, the woman said she felt forced to become one of Alamo's brides at age 15 after he rejected a request from a boy the same age to marry her. Alamo said the Lord had told him to take her as his wife, and that she feared she and her family would be shunned if she did not submit, she testified.

"We didn't have anywhere to go," said the woman, whose parents and grandparents were also Alamo followers.

The "marriage" took place at Alamo's compound but was not formally registered with the state. Three days after the impromptu ceremony, Alamo had sex with her for the first time, she said. The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

The woman's mother also testified Wednesday, largely confirming her daughter's account.

Prosecutors spent much of Wednesday going through a series of photographs of Alamo with women from his compounds. At one point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner asked the witness, "Who is the girl on the right wearing the Barbie shirt?"

The witness said it was the 8-year-old that Alamo had taken "as his wife."

During a bench conference among lawyers, Alamo grabbed a book of photos from the defense table and looked at the pictures from a distance of about 2 inches. The woman on the stand smiled occasionally while looking around the courtroom. During a glance at Alamo she wiped away a tear.

The woman acknowledged that she once wrote a letter saying life was fine inside Alamo's compound, but said he made her do so when he discovered others had posted statements critical of his ministry on the Internet. Alamo's followers regularly send letters to the media when allegations are raised against him.

The witness also testified that she left the compound briefly in 2005 after Alamo forced her to acknowledge falsely that she had had sex with her father and another woman. She returned after failing to adjust to life on the outside.

"I was born and raised there. It was all I knew. I was scared," she said through tears. "I wondered if I was making the right decision. I was told that if I left I would burn in hell."

The woman said she left for good in 2006 and contacted prosecutors after state and federal agents raided Alamo's compound near Fouke in southwestern Arkansas last Sept. 20. The government revised its indictment against Alamo to include some of her allegations.

Another former Alamo follower, Sue Balsley, testified that she attended a 1994 dinner with Alamo where he called for all of his "wives" to offer him a kiss. Two of those who walked up to kiss Alamo's cheek were underage girls she had taught in a ministry school, she said.

If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. He is being held without bond.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oil Heritage Festival - July 23 - 26

2009 marks the 31th anniversary of the Annual Oil Heritage Festival, proudly sponsored by the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce.

The festival honors the area’s rich heritage that resulted from the discovery of petroleum and the “oil boom” that occurred along Oil Creek in the mid-1800s. In that oil fueled the Industrial Revolution and the modernization of America’s transportation industry, our region is frequently referred to as “the valley that changed the world.”

The Annual Oil Heritage Festival depicts our distinctive heritage by incorporating many heritage related events into one of Western Pennsylvania’s major festivals … a fun-filled festival draws thousands of visitors and guests to the region each year.

Volunteers from civic and social organizations help to sponsor wonderful events designed to provide fun and entertainment for people of all ages.

Learn more about the Oil Heritage Festival HERE.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Opinion: The Good and The Bad about Venango County

Venango County resident Jim Ru sends this interesting piece about life in the hills of northwestern Pennsylvania.

Agree? Disagree? Have Lists of your own? Let us know ...

Good things about Venango County:

It's got the arts program which is sparking lots of interest in the community and bringing in talented and progressive people to Oil City.

It's got the Oil Region Indie Music and Arts Festival which brings in independent ideas on music and art.

It's got the Venango Clarion campus cultural program which has brought in amazing discussions about social issues, great movies, top notch performances and musical groups.

It's got one of the most charming and beautiful environments in the country.

It's got a good library where you can inter-library loan books from all over the world.

It's got a growing slow foods community and a farmer's market where you can find fresh food and people willing to barter for food.

It's got cheap housing.

It's got Chautauqua Institute which is just a little over an hour's drive away.

It's got a small but growing progressive community that is excited about creating positive, sustainable technology, and a diverse community where civil rights are respected.

It's got a pagan community nearby, a yoga studio, and the potential for more spiritual communities that are not dogmatic.

Young people here are waking up to the possibilities of their community and getting organized to create environmentally sustainable, culturally diverse societies.

Right wing extremists are considered boring and uneducated to the younger generation for the most part.

Bad things about Venango County

It's got a lot of right wing political extremists and dogmatic churches that constantly push their narrow-minded agenda.

It's slow to approve of new industry ideas and wants to revert back to the days of oil. It seems to forget that most of the oil is gone.

It's of a mindset that oil heritage is a positive aspect, when in fact it is a negative image to people these days.

It's slow to understand the impact the internet and other electronic technologies have had on education and society.

It's got the worst school system in the state, and the school system is controlled by right wing extremists. This gets reflected in the high suicide and pregnancy and drug addiction rate among young people.

It's knee jerk, Rush Limbaugh responses to anything new make community discussions about change extremely difficult. For instance, if you discuss keeping the rivers clean or wanting sustainable technologies, you're considered a nutcase.

It's entrenched in a fundamentalist religious mindset that fears anything new and threatens anyone who brings in new ideas.

It's very supportive of the Second Amendment, even though in reality this means that tens of thousands of gun toting, beer drinking hunters go into the woods and shoot anything that moves, including each other.

It's not supportive of the First Amendment if that means allowing people who disagree with right wing extremist politics a chance to be heard.

It's a place where racism, homophobia and misogyny are common and found amusing.

It lacks clean sustainable industries and the will to pursue them, during a time when a lot of people are out of work.

It's big on pushing fast foods, but at the same time pushing anti-drug rallies. It lacks the education to understand the connection between fast foods and obesity/diabetes.

It entrenches itself in the politics of the 1980's with issues like drugs, sexuality, culture, industry and pretty much everything else. Meanwhile the young people in this area have moved way beyond that having educated themselves on the internet. The generation gap of knowledge here is immense.

It's a constant battle to be heard over the right wing extremists who bully their way into every discussion for change and demand that it is either their way or no way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Erie Pride Weekend - July 25 & 26

Erie Gay Pride is coming this weekend!

On Saturday, folks will be assembling at the Zone Dance Club, 133 W 18th St, Erie PA at noon, and the March will be stepping off at 1 PM, which will proceed across 18th Street to State Street, and then down State Street to Perry Square.

The Rally will be starting between 1:30 and 2 PM and there will be performers and speakers, including headliner Tom Goss.

On Sunday at 11 AM, there will be a Diversity service at Community United Church, 1011 W 38th St, Erie PA and then a GLBT Day at Waldameer Park and Waterworld at 1 PM. Waldameer is near the entrance to Presque Isle State Park. Meet at Rainbow Gardens.

For more info, go to Erie Gay Pride.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gay Marriage and the Constitution

Why Ted Olson and I are working to overturn California's Proposition 8.

By DAVID BOIES for the Wall Street Journal:

When I got married in California in 1959 there were almost 20 states where marriage was limited to two people of different sexes and the same race. Eight years later the Supreme Court unanimously declared state bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional.

Recently, Ted Olson and I brought a lawsuit asking the courts to now declare unconstitutional California's Proposition 8 limitation of marriage to people of the opposite sex. We acted together because of our mutual commitment to the importance of this cause, and to emphasize that this is not a Republican or Democratic issue, not a liberal or conservative issue, but an issue of enforcing our Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process to all citizens.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the right to marry the person you love is so fundamental that states cannot abridge it. In 1978 the Court (8 to 1, Zablocki v. Redhail) overturned as unconstitutional a Wisconsin law preventing child-support scofflaws from getting married. The Court emphasized, "decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals." In 1987 the Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional a Missouri law preventing imprisoned felons from marrying.

There were legitimate state policies that supported the Wisconsin and Missouri restrictions held unconstitutional. By contrast, there is no legitimate state policy underlying Proposition 8. The occasional suggestion that marriages between people of different sexes may somehow be threatened by marriages of people of the same sex does not withstand discussion. It is difficult to the point of impossibility to envision two love-struck heterosexuals contemplating marriage to decide against it because gays and lesbians also have the right to marry; it is equally hard to envision a couple whose marriage is troubled basing the decision of whether to divorce on whether their gay neighbors are married or living in a domestic partnership. And even if depriving lesbians of the right to marry each other could force them into marrying someone they do not love but who happens to be of the opposite sex, it is impossible to see how that could be thought to be as likely to lead to a stable, loving relationship as a marriage to the person they do love.

Moreover, there is no longer any credible contention that depriving gays and lesbians of basic rights will cause them to change their sexual orientation. Even if there was, the attempt would be constitutionally defective. But, in fact, the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians is as much a God-given characteristic as the color of their skin or the sexual orientation of their straight brothers and sisters. It is also a condition that, like race, has historically been subject to abusive and often violent discrimination. It is precisely where a minority's basic human rights are abridged that our Constitution's promise of due process and equal protection is most vital.

Countries as Catholic as Spain, as different as Sweden and South Africa, and as near as Canada have embraced gay and lesbian marriage without any noticeable effect -- except the increase in human happiness and social stability that comes from permitting people to marry for love. Several states -- including Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- have individually repealed their bans on same-sex marriage as inconsistent with a decent respect for human rights and a rational view of the communal value of marriage for all individuals. But basic constitutional rights cannot depend on the willingness of the electorate in any given state to end discrimination. If we were prepared to consign minority rights to a majority vote, there would be no need for a constitution.

The ban on same-sex marriages written into the California Constitution by a 52% vote in favor of Proposition 8 is the residue of centuries of figurative and literal gay-bashing. California allows same-sex domestic partnerships that, as interpreted by the California Supreme Court, provide virtually all of the economic rights of marriage. So the ban on permitting gay and lesbian couples to actually marry is simply an attempt by the state to stigmatize a segment of its population that commits no offense other than falling in love with a disapproved partner, and asks no more of the state than to be treated equally with all other citizens. In 2003 the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas held that states could not constitutionally outlaw consensual homosexual activity. As Justice Anthony Kennedy elegantly wrote rejecting the notion that a history of discrimination might trump constitutional rights, "Times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom."

There are those who sincerely believe that homosexuality is inconsistent with their religion -- and the First Amendment guarantees their freedom of belief. However, the same First Amendment, as well as the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses, preclude the enshrinement of their religious-based disapproval in state law.

Gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters, our teachers and doctors, our friends and neighbors, our parents and children. It is time, indeed past time, that we accord them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It is time, indeed past time, that our Constitution fulfill its promise of equal protection and due process for all citizens by now eliminating the last remnant of centuries of misguided state discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The argument in favor of Proposition 8 ultimately comes down to no more than the tautological assertion that a marriage is between a man and a woman. But a slogan is not a substitute for constitutional analysis. Law is about justice, not bumper stickers.

Mr. Boies is the chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Here We Go Again: Wedding Announcement Creates Controversy for Newspaper

Back in 2004, the American "Family" Association of Pennsylvania caused a stir about a same-sex wedding announcement published in The Derrick, the newspaper of record for Venango County.

Here's a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on "the controversy".

And here goes the AFA again, this time in Indiana. Pathetic and Sad!

By Lynda Waddington for The Iowa Independent:

Management at The Elkhart Truth in Elkhart, Indiana was unintentionally put in the center of the same-sex marriage debate this week when it published an Iowa couple’s marriage announcement.

The Iowa couple — Michael Berkey and James Chapin, both of Hanlontown — were featured in the newpaper’s July 12 engagement section because Berkey is a graduate of the local high school and his parents continue to reside in the community. Their wedding is planned for later this month.

The backlash from groups who oppose marriage equality began 48 hours later. At first the announcement became fodder for local radio station, then the American Family Association of Indiana, according to Indiana reporter Bil Browning, e-mailed an action alert to its membership, suggesting that the paper would also soon print “anniversary announcements for polygamous marriages” and “incestuous birth announcements.” Conservative Indiana blogger Brian Sikma, citing the fact that Indiana law does not recognize same-sex marriages, encouraged readers to contact the The Elkhart Truth’s parent company, Federation Media, to launch a complaint.

The editorial board at The Truth addressed the ongoing controversy on its own pages.

We had no idea that people in Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Warsaw, Kokomo, Indianapolis, Fishers, LaGrange, Muncie, South Bend and Syracuse cared so passionately about The Elkhart Truth. Not to mention our burgeoning fan base in Lawton, Okla.

Nonetheless, we appreciate the interest…

…Same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa, where the couple lives and plans to marry. Since one of the young men is originally from Elkhart and his family still lives here, we did the same thing we’d do for any other local family with a child getting married — we published the couple’s engagement announcement.

Because after all, how would Hoosiers who oppose gay rights even know about Iowa’s same-sex marriage ruling in April if news outlets hadn’t reported it in Indiana — where same-sex marriage is illegal? …

We fulfilled our role as a paper of record. We documented an engagement, something we do hundreds of times each year.

Protesters asked why we would publish a story about something illegal in Indiana. Basically, it’s because an informed citizenry, a citizenry capable of thinking for itself, needs uncensored news from a variety of sources. That includes states and nations where the law does not conform to Indiana’s.

Same-sex couples began entering into legal marriages in Iowa on April 27, following a unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that the state’s definition of marriage, which excluded same-sex couples, violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law indicated that spending on gay and lesbian weddings and the related tourism could bring $53 million a year to Iowa.

Anti-Gay Discrimination Has No Place in America

Friday, July 17, 2009

Right Wing Watch: The "Religious" Right Lies About Hate Crimes

As Senate Prepares to Take Up Hate Crimes Bill, Far Right’s Inflammatory Claims Should Not Be Taken Seriously

Lies should be refuted as a matter of record,but demonstrably false and ridiculous attacks deserve to be dismissed

from People for the American Way:

Anti-gay organizations have been fighting the steady advance of federal hate crimes legislation with rhetoric that is increasingly unhinged from reality. When the U.S. House of Representatives passed a hate crimes bill on April 29 with a bipartisan 74-vote margin, Religious Right leaders and some of their congressional allies were inspired to new heights (or depths) of literally incredible accusations.

Now, as the U.S. Senate prepares to take up its version of a hate crimes Bill, right-wing leaders are trying to crank up the volume even further on their propaganda campaign. Emblematic is a May 6 diatribe by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson:

As I'm recording this video greeting, there's a so-called hate crimes bill that's working its way through the congress that contains no adequate safeguards to protect the preaching of God's word. Because the liberals in Congress would not define sexual orientation, we have to assume that protection under the law will be extended to the 30 sexual disorders identified as such by the American Psychiatric Association. Let me read just a few of them: bisexuality, exhibitionism, fetishism, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, urophilia, voyeurism, and bestiality. Those are just a few. And I have to ask, have we gone completely mad?

Religious Right leaders have gotten undeserved support for their accusations from some members of Congress – notably Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) – and from right-wing media outlets and figures, like Fox’s Sean Hannity. In the Senate, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint in particular has distinguished himself as a purveyor of false information, and has promised anti-gay groups that he will launch a filibuster against the bill.

The Religious Right’s campaign of distortions and outright lies about the hate crimes bill has been unfolding all year and has been well-documented by and others; in April, we published “Right Wing Sounds False Alarm on Hate Crimes Legislation.”

During Senate debate we hope that journalists and public officials will not treat the Right’s false charges as if they represented one-half of a real policy debate on the legislation. The Right’s wild allegations should be treated instead as evidence of the desperation and utter lack of credibility on the part of those who are opposed to extending legal protections to LGBT Americans.

It would take many pages to compile the lies and fear-mongering of the Right on the hate crimes bill. This memo will highlight some representative examples from the past 10 weeks or so, and compile some of the readily available documentation that Religious Right leaders are lying to the media, to Members of Congress, and to their own supporters.

Big Lie Number One: The End of Religious Liberty

For years, Religious Right leaders have been claiming that adding protections based on sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes bill would mean an end to free speech and religious liberty in America. It’s never been true.

In fact, the current House and Senate hate crimes bills have such clear and explicit protections for First Amendment speech, it’s hard to know how right-wing leaders can continue to make the argument with a straight face. But make them they do. Here are just a few recent examples:

* In mid-June, more than 60 people, including pretty much all the major Religious Right figures and friends like Tom DeLay, sent a letter to Senators claiming that the hate crimes bill would criminalize preaching the Gospel and would, among other evils, “Silence the moral voice of the Church," “Punish principled dissent from the homosexual agenda," and “Be a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression."

* Janet Porter, a leading supporter of Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid, helped boost a Flag Day (Sunday, June 14) effort involving pastors “standing for freedom by exposing this dangerous bill that could land them in jail for the ‘crime’ of reading from Romans.” Porter, a WorldNetDaily columnist, was also behind a letter writing campaign to the Hill; its claims to have sent 700,000 letters sounds impressive until you read that people paid a lump sum to have 100 letters (one to each senator) generated over their name.

* The American Family Association’s Donald Wildmon sent activists an alert in late June under a headline that screamed, “The ‘Hate Crimes’ bill will take away our religious freedoms.”

* Pat Robertson recently told viewers of his 700 Club show that the bill would prevent pastors from preaching against homosexuality, claiming that “if anybody speaks out about homosexuality, says it’s a sin, says its wrong, says it’s against the Bible, that individual would be charged with a quote, hate crime.”

* On the eve of the House bill’s passage, GOP Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas and Trent Franks of Arizona joined Bishop Harry Jackson and spokespeople from the Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women for America to claim that preaching against homosexuality would become a hate crime. Talking points handed out by Rep. Louie Gohmert’s staff claimed that “The Hate Crimes bill creates a new Federal “Thought Crime.”

The Truth: Religious Liberty and Free Speech Carefully, Clearly, Explicitly Protected

As we and others have pointed out repeatedly, it could not be clearer that the hate crimes bills moving through Congress apply only when violent hate crimes have been committed against individuals. They have nothing to do with regulating speaking or preaching, which are protected by the First Amendment. But just to be clear, both House and Senate versions of the legislation include clear and explicit affirmations for speech and religious teaching. Here’s language from the bill about to be taken up in the Senate:

CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

Faced with that clear language, Religious Right leaders claim that some judge will somehow interpret the language to allow for prosecution of preachers if some member of their congregation responds to an anti-gay sermon by committing an act of violence. But unless a preacher is explicitly urging his parishioners to commit acts of violence against their gay neighbors, that scenario is nothing but the Right’s paranoid fantasy.

As we pointed out in April, stories cited by right-wing leaders as evidence that their fears are justified are mostly from other countries, which do not enjoy the strong free speech and religious liberty protections granted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And the American examples they cite, such as the supposed persecution of Christian grandmothers for sharing the gospel with gay people, don’t hold up to scrutiny.

As Right Wing Watch has noted:

The idea that hate crimes laws infringe free speech is ludicrous. Hate crimes protections for race and religion have existed for over a decade and racist or anti-religious speech has not been made illegal and nobody has been charged with a hate crime for engaging in such speech.

Big Lie Number 2: Hate Crimes Bill as ‘Pedophile Protection Act’

Last month, in “Free Speech, Irresponsible Speech, and the Climate of Intolerance,” we noted:

One appalling development has been the return to public discourse of public officials openly equating gay rights with support for pedophilia, a false and hugely inflammatory charge that seemed to have faded somewhat as equality for gay people gained support among the American public. But in their desperation to defeat hate crimes legislation, Members of Congress joined James Dobson and other Religious Right leaders insisting that Democrats were giving rights to pedophiles at the expense of Christians. One WorldNetDaily story used the phrase “Pedophile Protection Act” no fewer than four times in referring to federal hate crimes legislation under consideration, once quoting Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas using the term.

Accusations that the gay rights movement is a threat to children have typically been made in sleazy insinuations like this one from Donald Wildmon’s Speechless: Silencing the Christians:

Hate crimes laws have very little to do with hate or with crime. The primary goal of these laws is to silence Christians who object morally to sodomy and who object politically to the attempt of the secularist elite to dominate our culture and to subject our children to their own beliefs and to their own desires.

But in recent months they have gone well beyond insinuation to claim that a majority of the House of Representatives voted to grant pedophiles greater legal protections than Christians in America. Here’s a characterization by the Traditional Values Coalition on the eve of the House vote: “the ‘moral’ of this law, if it has one, is that child molesters and those who only ‘date’ dead people need to be protected but is open season on pastors and churchgoers.”

People like Sean Hannity find this shocking and unbelievable. Of course it’s not believable because it is not true. But it gets repeated because supposedly credible people, like Members of Congress, repeat the claim.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa has emerged as the King of Congressional Demagogues on the issue . On a May 14 radio show with Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, King claimed: “we have a record roll call vote that shows every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee voting to have pedophiles protected.”

Right-wing media is now filled with variations on a bogus hypothetical scenario: that a woman who pushes away an exhibitionist, or a person who steps in to defend their daughter or nephew from a child molester, would be sent to jail for ten years under the hate crimes law.

The Truth: Pedophilia is in no way protected by the hate crimes bill.

Rep. King and his friends are lying. The Right’s claims and the label they have slapped on the hate crimes bill – “Pedophile Protection Act” – are based on falsehood layered upon falsehood.

The first falsehood is that because the bill does not include an explicit definition of “sexual orientation,” the term would be used to cover, depending on which Religious Right figure is speaking at any moment, either a list of 30 “paraphilias” listed in the American Psychicatric Association’s current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or a much larger list of “547 sexual deviancies,” as claimed by radio host Janet Porter and PAC. The ever-memorable Pat Robertson suggested that it might protect “people who have sex with ducks.”

The second falsehood is that the House Judiciary Committee, by rejecting an inflammatory and unnecessary amendment by the grandstanding Rep. King, was somehow voting to extend new legal protections to pedophiles.

Here’s the simple fact regarding a definition of sexual orientation: Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation by anyone’s definition – only in the imagination of Religious Right organizations and political figures trying to derail the legislation with the most inflammatory charge they can come up with. As Rep. Tammy Baldwin pointed out during debate, sexual orientation is explicitly defined in the federal hate crimes statistics act as “consensual heterosexuality and homosexuality. And in spite of the Right’s claims about paraphilias, the American Psychiatric Association defines sexual orientation very clearly as homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.

Jim Burroway, who blogs at boxturtlebulletin, interviewed Dr. Jack Drescher, a member of the APA’s DSM-V Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, who, asked about the Right’s claims regarding the hate crimes bill, said:

Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation, nor would pedophiles be covered by a law protecting people for their sexual orientation. Religious social conservatives who oppose gay rights are using terms that sound like science, as opposed to actual science, to make unwarranted and malicious comparisons between homosexuality and pedophilia. Not only is this scare tactic untruthful, it reveals how little respect some religious conservative leaders have for the intelligence of the people they are trying to persuade.

And regarding Rep. King’s claims – touted by folks like Sean Hannity – that House Democrats supposedly voted to extend protection to pedophiles in the bill, here’s what really happened. While legislation was being considered in the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans introduced a series of amendments that were designed to distort the intent of the legislation and create an opportunity for divisive debate. Among them was an amendment by Rep. King to exempt pedophilia from the legislation. As Rep. Baldwin made clear during the mark-up of the legislation, the amendment was not necessary, because sexual orientation is defined in federal law as heterosexuality or homosexuality, and the act already had nothing to do with peodphilia. King’s amendment was one of a series of grandstanding efforts voted down by Democrats.

Strange Auxiliary Lie: Hate Crimes Bill Would Target Pro-Life Military Personnel

The Religious Right has even tried to claim that hate crimes legislation would somehow be used to target pro-life military personnel. This one is so bizarre and convoluted that it merits little attention on the substance. It does, however, shed light on the credibility of Focus on the Family and other groups desperately grasping for ways to slow the momentum of hate crimes legislation. Here’s a claim from Focus on the Family:

House Hate-Crimes Bill May Target Pro-Life Servicemen and Women

Senate Republicans have called a hearing Thursday to discuss proposed hate-crimes legislation. The contentious language would elevate some victims of violent crimes over others.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a hate-crimes bill, and is trying to take the concept one step further.

Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings has added language that would ban the recruitment, enlistment or retention of military personnel affiliated with "hate groups." Just a month ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued a study listing pro-life advocates as potential national security threats.

And here’s how Right Wing Watch dispatched it:

Does this make any sense at all? Focus is claiming that passage of hate crimes legislation will somehow prevent anti-choice individuals from joining the military by stirring together three completely separate issues into one steaming mass of nonsense.

First of all, hate crimes legislation has already passed in the House and contains no such language regarding military recruitment, nor does the version being debated in the Senate. And considering that the legislation has already passed in the House, there is no way that Rep. Hastings could have "added language" to it.

Secondly, what Hastings has done is add an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 that "would prohibit the recruitment, enlistment, or retention of individuals associated or affiliated with groups associated with hate-related violence against groups or persons or the United States government." The language of the amendment can be found here [PDF] and defines "hate groups" as groups that advocate violence against others based on race, religion, or ethnicity, engage in criminal activity, or advocate armed revolution against the government.

Thirdly, these two things have nothing to do with one another and neither has anything to do with the recent Department of Homeland Security report.

Yet, somehow Focus on the Family's Steve Jordahl has managed to combine all three of these issues into one claim that hate crimes legislation would somehow lead to pro-life members of the military being targeted. And even though this claim is utterly incoherent and fundamentally nonsensical, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see it get picked up by others in the right-wing echo chamber and quickly establish itself as part of the narrative.

More resources on hate crimes

People For the American Way has compiled a resource page on the hate crimes bill which includes links to several letters to Congress from progressive African American clergy debunking right-wing lies and calling for the bill’s passage.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Family Values Fraud

from Wayne Besen:

I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to the phrase "Family Values." It was the early 1990's and I was driving in my car. I looked out of the window and saw the strange verbiage promoting a new subdivision on a towering billboard above the highway.

The sign didn't perturb me, but I was puzzled by the slogan. Having grown up in a series of subdivisions, it went without saying that the existing cul-de-sacs were always brimming with families.

So, what made this development so different? Did they forbid singles from living behind the gates? What if a divorce occurred, did the broken family have to move? Did offspring have to eventually leave if they had not married by a certain age? Were gay people forbidden from living there?

What I found most bewildering was the idea of promoting family, as if it were a prefab product that could be marketed, packaged and came with 2 ½ bathrooms. That seemed as forced and unnatural as the wax fruit placed on the coffee tables of model homes in such developments.

At that time, my parents had been together for more than 20 years (They celebrate their 40 year anniversary in August). Their lifetime together was just an organic experience that didn't need to be trumpeted. They never had to say, "look at us, aren't we just the healthiest, happiest family you've ever seen? Check out our wonderful morals and values. Aren't we special? And, by the way, vote for a specific political party to keep us together."

Aside from politicians kissing babies and posing with their brood, I always imagined the value of family to be a private affair. It was an intimate bond between two people and their children. The ostentatious commercial worship of this unit seemed jarring and exploitative. Indeed, it seemed anathema to actual healthy families. If one's family were so wonderful, after all, why would it need a special subdivision?

Shortly after I saw this billboard, President George Bush and his vacuous Vice President, Dan Quayle, brought the "family values" mantra into the political arena. Religious scolds, who worked to transform marriage from a private institution to a very public one, championed this moral marketing campaign. The GOP soon recast itself as the great defender of family and assiduously catered to this crowd, who eventually took over the party.

In reality, of course, strong families don't need to be defended. If a husband and wife are busy cuddling, they don't need candidate crusaders. If parents are taking their children to soccer practice, they don't need James Dobson socking imagined enemies.

Come to think of it, the perceived family foes were always of straw. The main villains were dreaded liberals - such as my parents and the Obamas. You know, the ones who actually kept their families together without a media campaign promoting their virtues. Even the Clintons, the bane of the right, have managed to keep their family together.

Twenty years later, the inconvenience of life has run the family values fraud off the rails. This racket is now the realm of fakes and flakes, phonies and freaks. The Republican Party is now dominated by news of preachy pols and their sordid affairs, with soap opera lives of tabloid fare. (Like a line-up of bad reality TV, we've got Sarah and Sanford and Ensign and Rush - and let's not forget Vitter and Newt.)

At this point, the astonishment has worn off. Let's just be honest and admit that the modern GOP is a pathological party of head cases and closet cases.

The bombastic base consists of many people who lack self-control. They can't keep their hands out of the cookie jar, so they work the political system to ban the container, so no one can enjoy a treat. What must eat these hypocrites alive is the fact that many "immoral liberals" are actually more likely to take one cookie and walk away from sweet temptation.

In retrospect, Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings oddly cast the president in the role of Jesus Christ. He was pilloried by the self-righteous and they thirsted for his blood to atone for their own seismic sins. It is no coincidence that those who most stridently nailed Clinton, were the most likely to be nailing someone who wasn't his or her spouse. (Who can forget Sen. Larry Craig calling Clinton a "bad naughty" boy)

The family values ad I saw in my youth makes no more sense today than it did two decades ago. Perhaps, families never belonged on billboards to be politicized and commercialized in the first place. Seriously, if you need a congressman to save your family, maybe your marriage isn't worth saving.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Urgent Action: Senate Hate Crimes Bill Up For Vote As Soon As This Thursday!

from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:

When hate crimes legislation passed in the House of Representatives, we knew it would only be a matter of time before we'd need you and all of our supporters to take action again — this time to help push this critical legislation through the Senate.

The Task Force has learned that the Senate may be voting on hate crimes legislation as soon as this Thursday as an amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill.

That's why it's so important for you to make your voice heard now, before it's too late.

Call your senators right away to urge them to pass the hate crimes amendment without delay.

With your help, we can convince our senators to do the right thing. Once the amendment passes the Senate, it will go back to the House for approval. And once that's happened, it will be sent to President Obama for his signature. This means we are literally steps away from securing federal protection for the LGBT community from vicious attacks and hate.

But your senators need to hear from you. They need to know that you're holding them accountable for the passage of this bill. Every single one of us must act — and act now — to ensure that it is passed.

Please call right now and then urge everyone you know to contact their senators.

Thank you for taking action and for spreading the word.

Rubbish In The Guise Of Research

from Truth Wins Out:

In a brazen effort to preempt an American Psychological Association report on human sexuality, scheduled for release in August, an anti-gay organization unveiled its own report, which amounts to rubbish in the guise of research.

The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality's (NARTH) "new" study, "What the Research Shows: NARTH's Response to the American Psychological Association's Claims on Homosexuality", is so embarrassingly slipshod that no scientist would take it seriously.

But, the goal, of course, is not to impress researchers who would cackle at the kookiness. The real aim, according to Dr. Jack Drescher, a renowned psychiatrist and author, is to confuse the public and gullible media into believing the APA and NARTH are equally credentialed scientific bodies engaged in a legitimate dispute over homosexuality.

The truth, however, is that NARTH is a fringe group held in ill repute by anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of science. The organization is best known for encouraging male clients to drink Gatorade and call friends "dude" to increase masculinity.

The first clue that this study was utter trash was the fact that NARTH and Focus on the Family referred to it as "new". Indeed, not one iota of fresh research took place. Not one moment was spent in the lab, nor were any subjects recruited to broaden the base of knowledge on the etiology of sexual orientation.

The study was basically a compilation of everything negative ever written about gay people, no matter how invalid, idiotic or biased the conclusion. NARTH essentially blasted sh** out of a cannon, hoping at least some would stick to the wall.

The second clue to the inanity of this report was that NARTH's Scientific Advisory Board guided it. The last time this assemblage of reprobates appeared in the news, it was after one of their members (Gerald Schoenwolf) seemed to endorse slavery, while another (Joseph Berger) opined that gender variant children should be "ridiculed" by their peers.

The third clue was when NARTH claimed that its work appeared in the peer-reviewed "Journal of Human Sexuality." They conveniently fail to mention that this is their own journal - staffed by other like-minded quacks. This is the equivalent of me offering a glowing review of my last book on my own personal website, while pretending it was an independent overview.

The fourth clue was that NARTH refused to rely on modern research. Instead, they elected to incorporate discredited and outdated century-old studies, where gay subjects were often recruited from prisons or mental hospitals. It is no coincidence that NARTH used work from the horse and buggy era, as no research in more than thirty years has supported their views on homosexuality.

Could you imagine how people would be howling if an organization used 125 year old studies on African Americans, climate change or even medicine? The idea is as shocking as it is laughable.

Most absurd, NARTH invoked the Stonewall uprising that ushered in the modern gay rights movement, on the event's 40thanniversary, to highlight the alleged oppression of "ex-gays." According to the group's website:

"Those who have received help from reorientation therapists have collectively stood up to be counted-as once did their openly gay counterparts in the 1970s. The first time a formal demonstration against the American Psychiatric Association was protested against-not by pro-gay activists, but by a group of people reporting that they had substantially changed their sexual orientation, and that change is possible for others-was on May 22, 1994, in Philadelphia. A similar demonstration the 2006 American Psychological Association Convention in New Orleans."

Interestingly, NARTH writes this passage as if it is a casual observer witnessing an organic uprising. What NARTH conveniently fails to point out is that the group engineered and staged these protests as a public relations gimmick. I was at the so-called "protest" in New Orleans. The demonstrators were all professional "ex-gay" activists or members of NARTH - including the group's president Joseph Nicolosi and his son.

So, let's put this "study" in perspective.

NARTH is repackaging 125-year old research as new and unveiling its "findings" in its own publication, while trying to claim that it survived peer review. The group is also pretending to document a spontaneous popular uprising that they had actually staged. They are hoping to pull off this publicity stunt by creating an online echo chamber, with Christian news outlets mindlessly repeating their obvious lies.

NARTH is not interested in science. Its real motivation is bigotry that can be best evidenced by a quote made by the group's late co-founder Dr. Socarides: "Homosexuality is...a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society."

If it quacks like a duck, it may just be quacks ducking out on reality.

Iowa Today, Pennsylvania Tomorrow


New Ad: How the Freedom to Marry benefits ALL Iowans

On Friday, April 3 the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. Recognizing marriage for caring, committed gay and lesbian couples will continue a long-standing Iowa tradition of protecting all its citizens and treating each Iowan fairly.

We hope this ad will start a conversation with Iowans about the Supreme Court decision, which isn't just about gay and lesbian Iowans-it's about ALL Iowans. We know that marriage strengthens families and, as Iowans, we support committed couples who want to accept the responsibility that comes with marriage.

We invite you to view our ad and participate in a statewide conversation about marriage. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors. Discuss what marriage means to you.

Some have asked what the Court's decision means for religious institutions.

It's important to know that while the state, its cities and businesses will recognize marriage for gay and lesbian couples, religious institutions will only recognize it if they choose to. Just as some churches are not required to marry a couple that is not a member of their denomination, this decision will not require any religious institution to recognize a marriage contrary to its beliefs.

The Court's decision specifically states, "The sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects the more complete understanding of equal protection of the law."

Check out ONE IOWA

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oil City Arts Effort Moving Forward At Swift Pace

from The Derrick:

Efforts to help revitalize Oil City by showcasing the arts are bearing fruit and there's more to come, according to city arts coordinator Joann Wheeler.

Wheeler spoke Friday at a meeting of the committee overseeing the four-year-old campaign.

"We're moving right along. I'm pleased," said Wheeler prior to presenting a brief update of the arts revitalization program.

To date, 22 artists have rented studio space in the National Transit Building and its adjacent Annex, both on Seneca Street. Five vacant studios remain. That is nearly double the number of artists just 10 months ago. At least three more artists are considering leasing space, said Wheeler.

A next step, said the arts coordinator, is to establish a retail art shop and exhibit area in the vacant Annex basement for artist tenants. The project would increase "traffic and visibility" within the arts community, said Wheeler, and provide a place for local artists to sell their work on consignment.

That concept, said Libby Williams, chairman of the Oil City Arts Council, was one of the original plans in the move to create an artists' center in the city.

"It was to be a co-operative...but everyone is too busy to run it," Wheeler told the committee. "So our idea is to hire someone part-time."

The followup has been to ask the Oil City Civic Center, owner of the National Transit complex, to hire an individual with retail experience to design and manage the co-op. The salary, she said, would be subsidized by money from the national stimulus package. Several months into the project, said Wheeler, the co-op would begin to pay rent to the Civic Center.

Artists now have the National Transit Gallery in the main building to showcase their wares, said Wheeler, and the addition of a co-op business would not unfairly compete.

"Successful art towns have a range of galleries and shops where people can browse," Wheeler wrote to the Civic Center. "All survive and all feed off one another, and towns which develop a gallery quarter become destinations - our goal."

Lots of interest

There is "a ton of interest out there" in classes and studios within the Transit complex, said George Cooley, a committee member and artist. That was shown, he said, during the city's recent Oil Region Indie Art Festival that featured artists working at potters' wheels in the front quarters of the Annex.

Similar interest in working out some type of cooperative effort has also come from musicians, said committee member Jerome Wincek.

"We have had a huge outpouring of local and regional (musical) talent and we need a way to network, an umbrella to promote and coordinate where these groups can perform here," he said. "...We need to start showing off what we have in an organized way."

Wincek said he wants to develop a system that offers bookings, promotional materials and more that will broaden the musicians' role in the arts revitalization work.

On another front, the arts group is working with the Northwest Planning Commission to use $10,000 to develop a Route 8 arts corridor that includes artist venues in Franklin, Oil City and Titusville. The funds will be earmarked for the compilation of a database, development of a brand and creation of a Web site.

"This is very preliminary at this point," said Wheeler. "We want to duplicate the Route 6 arts corridor that identifies and promotes artists along that route."

In a unique promotional event, the National Transit studio artists are making an "art car" for the Oil Heritage Festival parade on July 25. The vehicle, said Cooley, is being painted and embellished as "an effort to present ourselves to the community."

The National Transit artists' community has published a pledge pamphlet to draw financial contributions from area residents. Donors can help preserve and maintain the art center by adopting a studio, classroom or performance space.

Major donors to date are Carol Boyle and Chuck Stubler. All contributions, said Wheeler, help fund "a growing and successful art community in Oil City."

Additional information is available by contacting Wheeler at 676-5303.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rainbow Pride Connection Conference at Chautauqua, Sept. 12 & 13

This conference is for the educational, philosophical, political, and spiritual growth of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the tri-state area. We want to provide the opportunity to build friendships, experience GLBT pride, and strengthen our political power.

Learn more about Rainbow Pride Connection HERE.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

There Comes A Time ...

Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?

Vanity asks the question - is it popular?

Expediency asks the question - is it political?

But conscience asks the question - is it right?

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, popular, or political; but because it is right.

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Movie: Tying The Knot

TYING THE KNOT is a journey through 5,000 years of history with marriage in mind. Didn’t princes and princesses used to live happily ever after? Author EJ Graff corrects some myths and fairy tales that the Extreme Right has been spinning as of late.

For example, did you know:
• Marriage has been a constant battleground and has changed many times to reflect the values of society?
• Marriage had no religious significance even in the Catholic Church until the Middle Ages?
• Protestant churches have split a number of times over issues related to marriage?

Are these quotes from the 2004 Republican National Convention?
• “This sort of marriage is not in the best interest of children.”
• “God has a plan for marriage and this isn’t it.”
• “Allowing this kind of marriage will pave the way for all sorts of moral depravity.”

In fact, these arguments were made about marriage between a man and a woman.

In TYING THE KNOT civil rights attorney Evan Wolfson tells the love story of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who fought a long battle with the Commonwealth of Virginia for the right to marry. The year was 1962. Mildred was black and Richard was white, but their loving lives together were anything but simple.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Movie: Fish Out Of Water

A documentary that explores the impassioned relationship between homosexuality and the bible.

The feature documentary begins with an animated recollection of the fallout at Vanderbilt University when the films director, Ky Dickens, came out to her sorority sisters. Their rabid rejection sparks her search for Bible-based condemnation.

Crisscrossing America and listening to the country's impassioned speech on this divisive issue, she speaks with ministers of all denominations, recording the experiences of the oppressed and the justifications of the oppressors.

At the film's core are interviews with GLBTQ folks from every religion, class and ethnic group who have survived intolerance, most often from their own families. Their searing but soul-soaring stories give the fight for equality a human voice and face, offering inspiration to those still ensnared in struggle.

Check out the film web site HERE.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Erie Pride Picnic Highlights

Check out the great coverage of the recent Erie Pride Picnic on the Erie Gay News site! The Northwest Penna. GLBT Community Rocks!

Here's a preview:

Making Pennsylvania Proud: Rep. Patrick Murphy

Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania officially became the lead sponsor on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, on Monday night, but he’s been stepping up efforts to get the bill moving for months.

Murphy has launched a new website,, where citizens and soldiers can weigh in on the policy and get updates on the bill. He is also joining forces with the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United on a national tour to discuss the negative effects of the policy with average citizens across the country.

Check out The Advocate interview with Rep. Murphy HERE.