Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sex with Ducks or Pat Robertson



Riki "Garfunkel" Lindhome and Kate "Oates" Micucci sing a pro-gay marriage song in response to a Pat Robertson quote that legalizing gay marriage would lead to legalizing sex with ducks.

Maya Angelou Calls for Marriage Equality

Acclaimed poet Dr. Maya Angelou is lobbying New York state senators to vote for marriage-equality legislation, placing phone calls to say that same-sex marriage is a matter of fairness.

Acclaimed memoirist and poet Maya Angelou is among the celebrities lobbying New York state senators to vote for marriage-equality legislation, reports The New York Times.


Angelou, who maintains a home in Harlem in New York City, placed three phone calls to state senators in the past week, compelled by her belief that allowing same-sex couples to marry is a matter of fairness.

“To love someone takes a lot of courage,” the 81-year-old said in an interview with the newspaper. “So how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person’?”

Other prominent personalities lobbying the legislature include Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner of the National Football League, who has a gay son, and Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, who is a lesbian.

Nixon plans to visit lawmakers in Albany on Tuesday.

Marriage-equality legislation passed the assembly on May 12, but with four weeks left in the legislative session, its outcome remains uncertain in the closely divided state senate.

Despite Angelou’s stature, a call this week did not convince state senator Shirley Huntley, a Democrat from Queens who opposes the marriage-equality bill, to support it.

“If they gave me a million dollars, tax free, I just wouldn’t vote for it,” Huntley told the newspaper.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Defenders

Hmmmm ... Does This Remind You Of Anyone Here In Venango County?



Learn more at Educate Against Prop 8

The Big Gay Chip On My Shoulder

Former Matchbox Twenty front man turned solo singer Rob Thomas let out his frustrations on The Huffington Post Wednesday -- titling his article “The Big Gay Chip on My Shoulder.”

The self-professed liberal wrote the article in the wake of the California supreme court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8, saying he’s never received more backlash and controversy than he did when he likened Pat Robertson to the devil and declared his support for same-sex marriage.

by Rob Thomas:

I am a straight man, with a big gay chip on my shoulder.

A while back on my Twitter page (yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds), I mentioned that, if I believed in the devil, Pat Robertson might be him.


Being a fairly liberal-leaning guy with either liberal friends or Republican and Christian friends who don't believe that being one has anything to do with the other, I was surprised at how many people took offense to what I had to say.

These people weren't friends of Mr. Robertson but friends, apparently, of God. They had "spoken" with him and he had assured them that he was no friend of the gays. He also told them that he loved America more than any other country and was a huge fan of Dancing With the Stars.

The small controversy or "Twitter-versy" (patent on phrase pending) all started when I had made the mistake of asking why two people of the same sex shouldn't be able to make the same life-long commitment and (more importantly) under the same god, as straight people. Why can't my gay friends be as happily married as my wife and I? It seemed simple to me, but let me start off by telling you a series of things that I believe to be true:

I am a person who believes that people are born gay. I don't think you have any control over what moves you or to whom you're attracted. That's why it's called an attraction and not a choice.

I believe that America is a great nation of even greater people. I also believe that anyone who says that this is a "Christian nation" has RHS, or revisionist history syndrome, and doesn't realize that most of our founding fathers were either atheist or at least could see, even in the 1700s, that all through Europe at the time, religion was the cause of so much persecution that they needed to put into their brand new constitution a SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE so that the ideals of a group of people could never be forced onto the whole. (I also find it funny when people point out to me that it says "one nation under god" in our pledge of allegiance, not realizing that this was an addition made in 1954 during the communism scare of the McCarthy era. It's not surprising, however, knowing that these same people would punch me in the mouth if I called Jesus a Jew.)

I believe the fact that an atheist, who doesn't believe in God at all, is allowed to enter into the holy land of marriage while a gay Christian is not, shows that this law is arbitrary. Are we to believe that anyone who doesn't live their life according to the King James Bible isn't protected by the same laws that protect those who do? Using the same argument that I've seen on the 700 Club, that would mean that Jewish, Hindu, or Muslim weddings are also null and void.

I believe that to deny this right to the gay population is to say to them, "this god is not your god and he doesn't love you." There isn't one person who is against gay marriage that can give me a reason why it shouldn't be legal without bringing God or their religion into it. Still, I'm amazed at the audacity of a small, misdirected group of the ultra-conservative Christian right wing, to spend millions of dollars, in a recession, on advertisements to stop two men or women who love each other from being able to be married, but when you present any opposition to them, they accuse you of attacking their religion. Isn't it funny that the people who are the quickest to take someone's basic rights to happiness are always the loudest to scream when someone attacks their right to do so?



But this isn't a paper about religion. How could it be? Since we clearly have a separation of church and state, how could a conversation about laws have anything to do with religion at all? I'm writing about basic civil rights. We've been here before, fighting for the rights of African Americans or women to vote, or the rights of Jewish Americans to worship as they see fit. And, just as whites fought for African Americans or Christians for Jewish Americans, straight people must stand up and be a voice for gay people.

I've heard it said before, many times, that if two men or two women are allowed to join into a civil union together, why can't they be happy with that and why is it so important that they call it marriage? In essence, what's in a name?

A civil union has to do with death. It's essentially a document that gives you lower taxes and the right to let your faux spouse collect your insurance when you pass away. A marriage is about life. It's about a commitment. And this argument is about allowing people to have the right to make that commitment, even if it doesn't make sense to you. Anything else falls under the category of "separate but equal" and we know how that works out.

The support of legalizing gay marriage is in no way meant to change the ideals of the section of Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin. But we should refuse to let other people's ideals shape the way we live our lives. Each of us has a short ride on this earth and as long as we stay in our lane, and don't affect someone else's ride, we should be allowed to drive as we see fit.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bush Solicitor General, Ted Olson, Explains Why He's Now For Gay Marriage

When Will There Be Public Voices of Support for GLBT Visibility, Rights & Equality in Venango County?

by John Aravosis at Americablog:

We wrote recently about how Ted Olson, George Bush's former Solicitor General (the guy who argues the administration's cases before the Supreme Court) - and the guy who argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court on behalf of Bush - is now teaming up with attorney David Boies to launch a federal legal challenge to Prop 8 in Cailfornia.

As I mentioned last night, it's hard to overplay the significance of this. Olson may very well be the man singlehandedly responsible for putting George Bush in the White House these past eight years. He is a conservative. He was a member of the board of the American Spectator, the magazine that investigated Bill Clinton in the early 90s, and got that entire ball of wax rolling. Olson was the guy who was so conservative that Harry Reid torpedoed Bush's desire to make Olson Attorney General after Gonzales. Olson is so conservative that Bob Novak (aka Novakula) called him "highly esteemed."

You get the point.

This is as significant in conservative circles, I believe, as former McCain strategist Steve Schmidt, now supporting gay marriage. Moderates in the Republican party - or perhaps more accurately, conservatives - are suddenly speaking out with more moderate views. The irony is that we always wanted moderate/liberal Republicans to stand up and denounce the culture wars. To take their party back. But instead, we have a growing number of conservatives who are washing their hands of the religious right and its phobias.

Read what Olson said to Byron York at the Washington Examiner about his work on the Prop 8 case:

"I personally think it is time that we as a nation get past distinguishing people on the basis of sexual orientation and that a grave injustice is being done to people by making these distinctions," Olson told me Tuesday night. "I thought their cause was just."

I asked Olson about the objections of conservatives who will argue that he is asking a court to overturn the legitimately-expressed will of the people of California. "It is our position in this case that Proposition 8, as upheld by the California Supreme Court, denies federal constitutional rights under the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution," Olson said. "The constitution protects individuals' basic rights that cannot be taken away by a vote. If the people of California had voted to ban interracial marriage, it would have been the responsibility of the courts to say that they cannot do that under the constitution. We believe that denying individuals in this category the right to lasting, loving relationships through marriage is a denial to them, on an impermissible basis, of the rights that the rest of us enjoy…I also personally believe that it is wrong for us to continue to deny rights to individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation."


If Ted Olson can say that about gay marriage, then all bets are off in terms of what we should expect from Democratic politicians.

Joe and I both used to give a lot of latitude to Democrats on gay marriage. We're both realists who believe that civil rights, like so many other victories, are most often won in small steps (or "tranches" (aka slices) as they say in the financial world, and France). We were willing to cut Obama some slack on gay marriage because we understood that America wasn't there yet, and it was difficult for a Democratic politician to openly support gay marriage and not lose his career.

No more.

Times have changed. We have conservative Republican leaders like Steve Schmidt and Ted Olson openly endorsing gay marriage while our Democratic president and far too many of his administration are treating gays and their civil rights like some kind of crazy Aunt you don't talk about in polite company because she's just so embarrassing.

Religious right bigots like to invoke Obama's supposed opposition to gay marriage when trying to take away our civil rights, and the White House says nothing to dispel the comparison. Well, perhaps it's time we started quoting pro- gay marriage conservatives like Steve Schmidt and Ted Olson, and asking the White House why Barack Obama seems to have a bigger hang up with our civil rights - hell, with us (do you see anyone openly gay in the Cabinet?) - than two of the most conservative Republicans in Washington.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Please Support Equality with a Phone Call on Thursday Night

Friends,

Representative Babette Josephs of Philadelphia will be on Pennsylvania Cable Network’s call-in program Thursday night at 7pm to discuss House Bill 300, legislation that would outlaw discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Pennsylvanians in employment, housing, and public accommodation.


Rep. Josephs is one of our greatest champions for LGBT equality at the General Assembly. What she needs from you tomorrow night is your support! The other guest will be Randy Wenger from the Pennsylvania Family Institute, an anti-gay organization that advocates against LGBT civil rights at the state capitol.

The phone number to call in to support HB 300 is 1-877-726-5001. If you don’t have cable, you can watch the program online at http://www.pcntv.com/streaming/streaming.html.

Talking points are available at our website:

http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/PHRAtalkpts.pdf
http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/TPsBusinessHB300.pdf
http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/ReligionAndHB300.pdf
http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/GenderID101HB300.pdf

You know how people say, “when push comes to shove”? Well, now is that time on HB 300. We need you to get loud. Because freedom can’t protect itself….

Yours in liberty,

Andy Hoover
Legislative Director
ACLU of Pennsylvania
Don't mourn. Organize.

Invasive and Traumatizing

by Wayne Besen:

Having watched the court proceedings on television, I was pretty certain that the California Supreme Court was going to uphold Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to overturn an earlier court ruling allowing gay couples the freedom to marry.

Still, knowing that a punch to the gut is coming does not make it hurt any less. The 6-1 ruling was degrading, humiliating and a shameful day that will live in infamy. The decision upheld tyranny of the majority and promoted the idiotic idea of mob rule.

What next?

Can the voters of California now decide whether I can eat bacon and eggs for breakfast? Are they able to choose if I can own a cat or a dog? May they regulate my weight or pick what career I choose?

These are serious questions. The fact is, banning my potential marriage is more an imposition and hardship than if the voters had chosen to enact the above examples. Any non-biased person would agree that the idea of the public banning the possibility of their marriage would be both invasive and traumatizing. Yet, the voters of California, backed by the Supreme Court, upheld this Orwellian idea.

Really, what are the limits to such insanity? Are we unique individuals with inalienable rights or public property with provisional rights granted or eliminated by the whims of the fickle electorate?

In his dissent, Justice Carlos Moreno was correct to write, "Denying gays and lesbians the right to marry, by wrenching minority rights away from judicial protection and subjecting them instead to a majority vote, attacks the very core of the equal protection principle."

There are now calls from gay and lesbian leaders to place the marriage question back on the ballot in California. The competitive side of me says, "bring it on, let's win." But, another side believes that the gay and lesbian community should simply boycott all votes relating to rights - and take our outrage to the streets and the halls of Congress. After all, why are we the only minority in the history of this nation that has had to explicitly win public approval for our most basic needs?

Hell, if African-Americans had been forced to win equality through referendum they'd still be drinking out of separate water fountains in the South. Yet, we are routinely forced to degrade our humanity and grovel to voters, who smugly sit on the throne, judging whether we are worthy to visit our ailing spouses (scratch that, we are now partners, again) in their hospital beds.

The only silver lining is that the very act of fighting has compelled more people to "come out" - thus eroding the stigma of homosexuality. Recent public opinion polls have reflected this shift, with supporters of marriage equality reaching more than 40 percent. Demographic trends are also favorable, with younger voters embracing the freedom to marry.

No doubt, anti-gay forces are celebrating today's ruling as a major victory. Still, the court's ruling upholding the same-sex marriages that already took place in California must be disconcerting. If the existence of 18,000 gay married couples did not cause God to plunge California into the ocean, why would 180,000 make a difference? Our opponents have a real messaging problem that will only deepen, as more Californians are introduced to these couples.

The "Lucky 18,000" also creates the existence of a new caste system. At the top of the hierarchy are straight married couples that receive state and federal benefits. The next rung down, we have legally married gay couples who receive state benefits. Then, of course, we have the untouchables, who receive state domestic partnerships as a result of their inferior status. It seems that until gay couples can tie the knot, the judicial system will be tied up in knots over these supposedly "separate but equal" arrangements. And, I'm confident the public will eventually see the current reality as inherently unfair.

At a rally in New York in response to the ruling, I joined thousands of protesters who turned their disappointment into determination and pain into progress. Our movement is resilient and we understand that this is merely a speed bump that will not be a deterrent from ultimate victory.

I am further encouraged by the hoards of young activists who joined me at the Union Square demonstration. Mobilized by a sense of injustice and organized through the Internet, they may be the first generation fully supported by their peers. By the time they attend their college reunions, state sanctioned discrimination will be a distant memory, like homework and drinking games. Unfortunately, that day has yet to arrive, and gay people of all ages are experiencing a nasty hangover from the California Supreme Court's egregious ruling.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good News: Sen. Daylin Leach to Introduce Bill Providing For Full, Equal Marriage Rights to Pennsylvania's Same-Sex Couples

Take Action Below: It's Time Venango County Joins the Movement for Fairness and Equality for All.

HARRISBURG, May 27, 2009 – Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today announced plans to introduce a bill that would offer full and equal marriage rights to same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. Under the new legislation, Pennsylvania would also recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.

Leach noted that after the recent passing of same-sex marriage legislation in New Hampshire and Maine, and the rapidly expanding list of states considering the approval of same-sex marriage, it is time for Pennsylvania to act.

“In the past few weeks, several states have legalized same-sex marriage, and many will soon follow suit,” Leach said. “There has never been a more propitious time for Pennsylvania to embrace equality and enshrine the civil right of all Pennsylvanians to marry.”

While the bill would not require religious institutions to perform any marriage ceremonies or recognize any marriages that they do not wish to sanction, Leach said his legislation would dissolve all of the barriers to building families that gay and lesbian couples currently face, both at the state and federal level.

“The alternative to legalizing same-sex marriage is retaining our current, archaic protocol which treats an entire group of citizens as second-class,” Leach said. “This protocol denies the reality of same-sex families, many of whom have children. It provides no vehicle by which society can encourage gay couples to do what it encourages straight couples to do: namely to form permanent, monogamous and committed life-long partnerships.”

Leach’s bill is currently circulating for co-sponsorship.

Please contact our local State Senator Mary Jo White to let her know we support this bill and expect her to become a co-sponsor.

Capitol Address
286 Capitol Building, Senate Box 203041
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-8724
TTYD: 800-364-1581
Fax: 717-772-1589
Email: mwhite@pasen.gov

District Address
1140 Liberty Street
Franklin, PA 16323-1140
Phone: 814-432-4345

In The Long Run, We May Have Just Scored A Victory In California

by John Aravosis:

Yesterday the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, a ballot initiative that made it illegal to marry gay couples. But the court did something else. They let stand the marriages of 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before Prop 8 became law. I believe that those marriages may, in the long run, make gay marriage inevitable in California.

Sexual orientation already enjoys equal status with gender and race in California discrimination law, and, as the LA Times notes, today's court decision doesn't change that:

Even with the court upholding Proposition 8, a key portion of the court's May 15, 2008, decision remains intact. Sexual orientation will continue to receive the strongest constitutional protection possible when California courts consider cases of alleged discrimination. The California Supreme Court is the only state high court in the nation to have elevated sexual orientation to the status of race and gender in weighing discrimination claims.


The fact that 18,000 gay marriages will remain on the books means that, eventually, another case will go to the California Supreme Court, questioning the constitutionality of laws banning gay marriage, and the court will have to consider why those 18,000 marriages how not destroyed traditional marriage as we know it. In other words, the ongoing existence of these marriages, with no demonstrable harm being caused by their existence, will call into question, if not outright destroy, the bigots' argument for why the state has an interest in banning gays from getting married. In more colloquial terms, no harm no foul.

Yes, the decision is disappointing, but it wasn't unexpected. What is now clear is that those 18,000 gay marriages will remain the law of the land in California. And those 18,000 gay couples should now be able to get California state benefits that straight married couples get. All of that will eventually, I believe, lead California courts to rule that the sky has not fallen - there is no valid reason for not protecting gay couples equally under the law.

And those 18,000 couples will help prove, in states across the land, that the existence of gay marriages do not somehow cause bigots like Tony Perkins and Jim Inhofe to suddenly want to get divorced and shack up with a guy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nationwide Parties/Protests Planned: The California Supreme Court to Deliver Its Prop. 8 Verdict on Tuesday

Those battling for equality have devised new outlets for activism which have amped up the pressure for action at every level.

The California Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on Tuesday morning at 10am PT on whether or not to throw out Prop. 8, a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state. Brian Devine has the best legal description of this anywhere, which you can read here. The Court isn't really looking at the law itself, but whether a change of this type violates the limited ability of the people to amend the Constitution through an initiative; in other words, whether Prop. 8 was an amendment, which is legal through the initiative process that was used, or a revision, which requires a more deliberative process.

Based on the oral arguments, most people believe that the Court will not overturn Prop. 8, but may allow the 18,000 marriages that were consummated when same-sex marriage in the state was legal to remain that way. But the Court could surprise.

The initiative battle and particularly the aftermath of Prop. 8 have sparked a tremendous amount of activism in the state and nationally. Regardless of the outcome, the group at Day of Decision will hold nationwide events praising or protesting the Court ruling. On Saturday, 70 civil rights and progressive groups are sponsoring Meet In The Middle For Equality, a large gathering in Fresno, CA.

Lucas O'Connor remarks:

All of which adds up to yes, Prop 8 has proven to be one of the best organizing points in recent decades for the state of California. It's been a perfect storm of tactical and technological innovation from facebook and text messaging plus orgs like Courage Campaign and CREDO meeting resurgent activist energy and experience coming from the issue and the '08 presidential campaign legacy.

Like with the Dallas Principles, those battling for equality have devised new outlets for activism which have amped up the pressure for action at every level.

300,000 people have signed the pledge to repeal Prop. 8. Grassroots groups have sprung up out of nowhere, with more coming on line every day. There is no equal to the activism and organizing this has set off.

If I have any faith left in the ability for California to manage its seemingly intractable governmental problems, it's because I see this effort that has been launched in the name of rights and equality, and dream that it can be scaled up into a larger progressive movement that expands the fight for justice. Such an organizing effort has never even really been tried in the nation's largest state, and if successful could spread like wildfire across the country.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Distortions Aside, Clergy Support Gay Rights in Surprising Numbers

By Peter Montgomery for Religion Dispatches:

In a recent ad by the National Organization for Marriage, a scary storm of homosexuality threatens to rain gays into people’s lives and churches. That campaign, widely mocked by Stephen Colbert and numerous others, was just the most recent example of the Religious Right’s ongoing effort to portray the gay rights movement as an enemy of religious liberty and faith itself.


Progressive religious leaders have been working hard to make it clear that religion and religious people are not only on the “anti” side of the gay rights movement. Now there’s new evidence for widespread support among Christian leaders for public policies that protect the rights and lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and for their full inclusion in the life of the church.

An in-depth analysis of Mainline Protestant clergy shows large majorities of support for anti-discrimination laws, hate crimes legislation, and the right of gay couples to adopt children. Even same-sex marriage, so often portrayed by Religious Right leaders as an attack on the church, draws support from nearly half of Mainline Protestant clergy when it is clarified that no church would be forced to bless same-sex couples.

Those findings are drawn from recently-released findings from the Clergy Voices Survey conducted last year by Public Religion Research. Researchers identified 1,000 senior clergy from each of the seven largest Mainline Protestant denominations and sent them in-depth questionnaires by mail (the response rate was over 40 percent). The survey’s 60-plus questions covering LGBT issues provide the most extensive look ever at clergy beliefs about homosexuality, interpretations of scripture, and the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church—including ordination.

The PRR analysis holds mostly good news for equality advocates providing yet another tool for challenging assertions by anti-gay activists and public officials that, for example, hate crimes laws are a designed as a prelude to dragging preachers from their pulpits.

Among the most dramatic findings is the striking diversity of opinion within Mainline clergy who, in general, hold much more diverse political views than white evangelicals; Mainline Protestants are one of the only major religious groupings who are truly swing voters. (White Catholics being the other).

Some of the divisions break down pretty dramatically across denominational lines, with clergy from the United Church of Christ and Episcopal Church at the equality-affirming end of the spectrum, and clergy from the American Baptist Churches, USA and the United Methodist Church at the more conservative end, both theologically and politically.

With facts support doubles

But it’s also interesting to look at factors that cut across the denominations. The authors of the analysis, Public Religion Research’s Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox, also looked at a set of questions, including things such as the inerrancy of scripture and the sinfulness of homosexuality, to evaluate Mainline clergy along traditionalist/orthodox and modernist theological orientations. And, based on questions about sexuality, public policy, and the role of LGBT people in the church, they divide Mainline clergy into three major groupings.

Roughly equal proportions fall into a strongly gay-supportive base—who generally do not see homosexuality as a sin and are very supportive of pro-equality policies and full inclusion of gays in church leadership (29 percent)—and an opposing base holding the opposite view (30 percent). A plurality of respondents (41 percent) fall into what they call the Uncertain Middle.


That large middle group is ambivalent or uncertain about the nature of homosexuality, but is also generally supportive of equality-affirming public policies—much closer on policy issues to the supportive base than to the opposition. In some ways, clergy in the Uncertain Middle model an approach to the public policy issues that gay-rights advocates need to bring more fully into the policy arena: the majority of these clergy believe that having religious questions or concerns about the nature or sinfulness of homosexuality does not require one to oppose equality in the legal realm. This is the separation of church and state in action; with churches deciding questions about leadership and ordination, and policy decisions being made on constitutional principles like equality under the law.

This kind of clergy voice could be especially compelling to those people of faith who find themselves in an uncertain middle, perhaps struggling with what they have been taught about scripture, and wondering how much credence to give the arguments that religious liberty and legal equality are somehow irreconcilable.

This potential is evidenced by one of the most striking findings in the survey, which deals with support for same-sex marriage among clergy in the Uncertain Middle—which, remember, is a 41 percent plurality of the overall group. When asked whether they support marriage for same-sex couples, civil unions but not marriage, or no legal recognition at all, only 26 percent of clergy in the uncertain middle initially choose marriage equality. But when asked a follow-up question about whether they would support allowing gays to legally marry if the law guarantees that no church would be forced to marry any couple, that support jumps a remarkable 23 percentage points, to 49 percent. That is a powerful and potentially very useful fact.

But perhaps the most hopeful results for gay-rights advocates is the fact that almost half of the Mainline clergy report that their own views on gay and lesbian issues have become more liberal over the past ten years, with only 14 percent saying they have become more conservative.

Peter Montgomery, an Advisory Council member of ReligionDispatches, was until recently Vice President for Communications at People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. Peter is now a spokesperson on a range of issues, including religion and politics, gay rights, and free speech.

Before joining People For in 1994, Peter Montgomery was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause where he worked on grassroots lobbying campaigns, volunteer recruitment, and media relations strategy. He wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government, where his work was honored by Project Censored.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Watch Out Conservative America -- the Queer Base Is Getting Organized

There's a new call to action being sent out and it's time to start listening.

While the rest of progressive America was cheering on last November's election night, things weren't a total celebration for many in California as gay marriage foes won the battle over Proposition 8 and the few months that same-sex marriages had been sanctioned by the state Supreme Court came to an abrupt end.

California took a step back as Iowa and much of New England is moving forward to grant equal marriage rights and both the setbacks and victories are helping to spur new waves of activism for LGBT equal rights.

The Advocate reported a meeting that just took place among 20 activists to try and set a new course:

The group, which included grassroots activists, bloggers, and donors/fund-raisers, laid out eight organizing principles that underlie their call to action, seven civil rights goals for the movement as a whole, and seven ways to get involved, all of which are included below.

Participants said the meeting was mutually driven by a sense of historic opportunity combined with some discontentment over the pace at which LGBT rights are moving forward.


Here's one important point that makes me hopeful that they'll be bringing something different to the table:

For a number of reasons, Winkleman said the group decided not to include any executive directors from big LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He said they hoped to create something fresh and aspirational that was not driven by the needs, desires, resources, or advancement of any one particular organization.

The article also lays out their principles, goals and call to action:

PRINCIPLES

The following eight guiding principles underlie our call to action. In order to achieve full civil rights now, we avow:

1. Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.

2. We will not leave any part of our community behind.

3. Separate is never equal.

4. Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny civil rights.

5. The establishment and guardianship of full civil rights is a non-partisan issue.

6. Individual involvement and grassroots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.

7. Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access, or money raised.

8. Those who seek our support are expected to commit to these principles.

FULL CIVIL RIGHTS GOALS

Being united by common principles and engaging in united action, we will achieve the following goals:

1. DIGNITY AND EQUALITY. Every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender person has inherent dignity and worth, and has the right to live free of discrimination and harassment.

2. FAMILY. Every LGBT person has the right to a family without legal barriers to immigration, civil marriage, or raising children.

3. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY. Every LGBT person has the right to economic opportunity free from discrimination in employment, public housing, accommodation, public facilities, credit, and federally funded programs and activities.

4. EDUCATION. Every LGBT child and youth has the right to an education that is affirming, inclusive, and free from bullying.

5. NATIONAL SECURITY. Every LGBT person should have the opportunity to serve our country openly and equally in our military and foreign service.

6. CRIME. Every LGBT person should enjoy life protected against bias crimes.

7. HEALTH CARE. Every person should have access to affordable, high quality, and culturally competent health care without discrimination.

CALL TO ACTION

1. We demand that government officials act now to achieve full civil rights without delay.

2. Our organizations and individuals need to develop a collaborative and revolutionary new organizing model that mobilizes millions of supporters through emerging Web and phone technologies.

3. All LGBT individuals must accept personal responsibility to do everything within their power for equality and should get involved in the movement by volunteering, giving, and being out.

4. We will hold elected officials and our organizations accountable for being transparent and achieving full civil rights by active participation when possible and active opposition when necessary.

5. Our allies need to be proactive in public support for full civil rights.

6. Every government measure that quantifies the U.S. citizenry must permit LGBT individuals to self-identify and be counted in every way citizens are counted.

7. We demand that the media present LGBT lives in fair, accurate, and objective ways that neither include nor give credence to unsubstantiated, discriminatory claims and opinions.

WAYS TO STAY UPDATED

Email: info@thedallasprinciples.org

The Dallas Principles on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/DallasPrinciple

Twitter Feed:

http://twitter.com/statuses/us...

The Dallas Principles on Facebook:

http://tinyurl.com/owhf4s

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Inequality Isn't Just Un-Republican - It's Un-American"

An Open Letter to New York Republicans by Meghan McCain (daughter of John McCain):

As I read the news about the recent advances of marriage equality across our country, I think it is easy for many to get distracted by the politics and rhetoric on this issue and lose sight of what is really at its heart: the equality of freedom.


No matter how politically charged the discussions about marriage equality may get, the question is really a simple one: Do the rights and privileges we offer citizens include everyone in our country, or only some of us?

I believe that allowing gays and lesbians the freedom to marry is an idea whose time has come. Though my opinion is no doubt influenced by my family's public role in political life, I still approach this from personal experience, as I think most people do. For me, this is about treating all of my friends, and all of our brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren the same as I want to be treated. Equality under the law and personal freedoms are what make America the greatest country in the world, and they are core values that I hold as a Republican.

As I recently wrote after speaking at the Log Cabin Republican convention: "People may always have a difference of opinion . . . but championing a position that wants to treat people unequally isn't just un-Republican. At its fundamental core, it's un-American." I believe most Americans want our nation to succeed. Marriage equality moves us to a place where more of us can do a better job of taking care of our families.

Gays and lesbians are a vital part of our communities. They are doctors, teachers, firefighters, emergency personnel and neighbors. In this way, marriage equality is also about supporting good citizens and strengthening our communities. When a committed gay couple seeks to declare their love for one another and get married, the whole community benefits from the added stability and strength of that family. On top of that, we don't give up anything by sharing responsibilities and protections with those whom we love.

That's why I support marriage equality. It is the best and fairest way to grant gay and lesbian neighbors and family members the protections and responsibilities that they need to provide for their family and give back to their community.

As Republicans, we understand the importance of strong communities. Last week, the New York Assembly passed the marriage bill with the support of five Republican Assembly members. Now, the bill goes before the state Senate, where Republican senators will make the difference on whether the bill becomes law or dies. Once again, New York has the opportunity to make a statement about Republican values and fairness by passing the marriage bill.

I believe marriage equality will soon come to New York. My hope is that Republican senators will offer their support and make the difference to pass the marriage bill.

By voting for the marriage bill, they will make a strong statement about supporting New York families, strengthening New York communities and demonstrating that equality and fairness are fundamental values of New York Republicans. It will leave a legacy that will make us all proud.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Get Over It, Conservatives: Same-Sex Marriage Will Be Legal in All 50 States

Some day, people will look back with amazement and disdain that same-sex couples were denied a fundamental right for so long in America.

By Michael Abernethy, PopMatters:

Do a Google search for the term "same-sex marriage". I'll wait. Odds are that you got over 33 million results. Seems like everyone has something to say on the subject, good, bad, or ignorant.

Which is one reason I've never devoted an entire article to the subject ‘til now. After all, what could I say that is new? Still, there comes a time when the elephant in the room is tearing up all the furniture and peeing on everything and you just have to say, "Hey, look. There's a big elephant making a mess, here!"

Vermont, Iowa, New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut -- most likely, you don't need me to tell you what's going on in those states (and the district of D.C.). And if you're a savvy, literate person, you've already seen Frank Rich's wonderful New York Times piece deconstructing the ridiculous "Gathering Storm" commercial from the National Organization for Marriage, a group whose sole purpose it to stop loving couples from getting married, as opposed to helping those in troubled marriages fix their problems.

Instead, let me direct your attention to another well written op-ed piece, "Constitutional amendment on gay marriage is a waste of time" (11 March 2009), this one by an excellent writer named Michael Abernethy. No, not me. This Michael Abernethy is a writer with The Times News, Burlington, North Carolina's leading, and -- one assumes -- only, newspaper.

Abernethy excels at deconstructing some of the arguments against allowing gay marriage with wit and intelligence. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit that Michael and I are e-mail acquaintances and he is probably a distant cousin of some sort, as I have a considerable number of kinfolk in that area of the country.)

In response to the idea that allowing gay marriage will destroy the traditional marriage, he notes, "America's idea of the sanctity of marriage ended sometime between Elizabeth Taylor's fourth or fifth husband and Britney Spears' 55-hour marriage to a school friend." And he seems almost gleeful when it is suggested by an anti-gay crusader that after allowing gay marriage, marriage with "pets or robots" could be next: "I'll be first to sign the papers and finally consummate my love for ‘Agnes' -- my red, hollow-body, Washburn electric guitar -- to whom I've been devoted for 10 years."

What I like about Abernethy, aside from the great name, is his ability to cut through carefully constructed claims that are basically bullshit and fear-mongering and get to the absurdity of the primary arguments. And you should read some of his music reviews -- he's not shy about telling you a piece of crap music when he hears it, either. But I digress.

The same qualities I like in Michael's article are what I like about the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage, only take out the wit and add a lengthy discussion of the Iowa state constitution, with emphasis on the striking similarities to the U.S. Constitution (message to the U.S. Supreme Court received, thank you). The ruling cut down a well-financed, finely tuned anti-gay argument with logic, based in adherence to the principles of the Constitution. For instance, in response to arguments that the people of Iowa were opposed to gay marriage, the court replied, "A statute inconsistent with the Iowa Constitution must be declared void, even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion." (p. 13, VARNUM, HYDE, BARBOUROSKE, BARBOUROSKE, MORGAN, SWAGGERTY, TWOMBLEY, HOCH, MUSSER, DREAMING, OLSON, and EVANS v. TIMOTHY J. BRIEN, In His Official Capacities as the Polk County Recorder and Polk County Registrar.) They got it: that marriage is a legal right, not a religious practice. That doesn't preclude people from making the marriage ceremony a religious service, in any of a number of ceremony choices, but at its heart, marriage is all about the law.


Even if you have a grandiose wedding worthy of a four-page spread in People and performed by the Pope himself, you're not married in the United States until you file an official license with the government and some clerk with a bad attitude and hair extensions enters your information into the state's computer records. Then, you stay married until some court says you're not, at which point you are legally single, regardless of what your church thinks or says.

In fact, many denominations just avoid the whole divorce issue, leaving it strictly to the courts to determine. This is understandable, though; after pronouncing "what God has joined together, let no man put asunder" during the wedding, you've kind of painted yourself into a corner. Who really wants to take on God?

Thus, marriage exists in two forms in America: the legal form, which gets you tax breaks and hospital visitation rights, and the religious form, which gets you peace of mind in knowing that you are not going to Hell for screwing around with your spouse. Churches are free, and always have been, to marry whomever they want and to not marry those they don't want.

There are still a few churches that won't marry interracial couples, and some that won't perform someone's second (or third, fourth…) marriage. And there are plenty that won't marry gays. That is their right, and I absolutely support them in that right, as offensive as it may be.

That leaves legal marriage. One could easily argue that those weddings performed by a justice of the peace, ship's captain, or Elvis impersonator don't fit into the historical, traditional view of marriage, performed in and sanctioned by the church. Yet, no one has proposed in our lengthy discussion of traditional marriage that these marriages are invalid, which is recognition of the legal aspects of the issue and acknowledgement that weddings performed outside the church are legitimate. This is the area that the Iowa Supreme Court looked at in assessing the constitutionality of gay marriage:

Iowa Code section 595.2 is unconstitutional because the County has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage. A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution. This record, our independent research, and the appropriate equal protection analysis do not suggest the existence of a justification for such a legislative classification that substantially furthers any governmental objective. (You can read the entire 68-page decision here.)

Now, if I recall my high school civics class correctly, in order to bring an action, the state must have a compelling interest. For instance, it is in the state's best interest to prosecute a serial killer because it protects the citizenry or to establish educational standards because it allows the development of society. The supreme court said the state of Iowa has no compelling interest in refusing gays the right to get married. That's it in a nutshell.

To reach this conclusion, the Iowa Supreme Court (and others that have issued similar rulings) had to cut through innumerable claims that rejecting gay marriage did "substantially further" some purpose of government, including that gays are a threat to children, gay marriage would destroy heterosexual marriage, and gay marriage would redefine marriage to allow any type of wedding contract, including with robots and Agnes the electric guitar. In my mind, I see Iowa's Madame Chief Justice waving her magic gavel at those opposing gay marriage and saying, "Be gone, before someone drops a house on you", but I imagine there was probably a little more decorum to the ruling.

Those who oppose gay marriage are in full, code-red hyperdrive, dispensing emergency teams to various states with an efficiency that FEMA could learn from. As more legislative bodies adopt gay marriage bills, it will grow increasingly difficult for them to argue that activist judges are skirting the will of the people. Most certainly, the next few years will see innumerable ballot measures to amend state constitutions to bar gay marriage, and a sad number of them will pass.

In the meantime, thousand of gay couples will have had time to get married, settle in next door, and pose a threat to absolutely no one. When Carol and Sarah settle down in Keokuk, Iowa, with their two kids, get involved in the local PTA and Neighborhood Watch, and use their connections to lure some hot acts to the annual Keokuk Rollin' on the River Blues Fest, then folks might see them as an integral part of the community, not a warning sign of the pending apocalypse.


As more courts and legislative bodies recognize the legal aspects of marriage, separate from the religious, and more people grow comfortable with their gay neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives, gay marriage will become a reality. There will be a time when it is legal in all 50 states, and it will be such a part of our societal fabric that people will look back at this fight for rights with amazement and disdain that such a violation of human rights continued for so long in America. This probably won't happen in my lifetime, mind you, but that's OK. Not every soldier gets to see the end of the battle.

In the end, I really haven't said anything new, just as I predicted. All the arguments for and against gay marriage have been on the table for a while now, and all I may have accomplished is adding one more hit to the 33 million plus results you'll get on Google. But at least I can get that damn elephant out of my living room, now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

While The Country Moves Forward on GLBT Equality, Pennsylvania Moves Backward

Pa. Senator Introduces Gay Marriage Ban

State senator John Eichelberger, a Republican from Blair County in central Pennsylvania, plans to introduce a bill to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, reports the Philadelphia Daily News.


Pennsylvania enacted a law in 2006 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but Eichelberger contends a constitutional amendment is needed to prevent courts from overturning that law.

The amendment would require approval from the house and senate in two consecutive two-year sessions, followed by approval from voters in a statewide referendum. Proposals to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage have failed in the past two legislative sessions.

Despite recent advances such as the extension of health benefits to the domestic partners of state employees, attitudes on same-sex marriage remain slower to change in Pennsylvania than in neighboring states. A poll from Muhlenberg College and the Allentown Morning Call earlier this month showed that support for same-sex marriage rose from 35% to 42% since 2004, with public opinion split on a constitutional ban.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Please VOTE in Today's Pennsylvania Primary!

by Mike Mahler & Dave Martin:

Just a reminder that the Pennsylvania Primary is TODAY, May 19. Polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM. Voting takes only a few minutes, but it is incredibly important!

PLEASE exercise your right to determine who makes the laws that affect your life.

Not sure who to vote for? Call and discuss with friends, then go to the polls.

On today's ballot are statewide races for courts. These are more important than most folks might be aware. 2010 will be the decennial census, which means redistricting. When there are disputes, this is handled by the State Supreme Court. The candidate who get elected this year will decide not only important cases, but might make rulings that will affect what happens in our state legislature!

(And we received word today about a representative in Blair County who wants to introduce a constitutional amendment that will ban marriage equality.)

As we have seen recently in several states across the country, GLBT equality issues are often decided by state courts, so it's vitally important to elect candidates who understand and support fairness and equality sitting on the bench when GLBT issues come before the courts.

The following candidates are endorsed and/or recommended by Liberty City Stonewall Democrats, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, the Pa Chapter of NOW and the PSEA.

Please get to the polls on Tuesday and cast your vote in support of:

- Justice of the Supreme Court (vote for one)......Jack Panella

- Judge of the Superior Court (vote for three)......Anne E Lazarus - John Younge - Kevin F McCarthy

- Judge of the Commonwealth (vote for two)......Barbara Ernsberger - Daniel Bricmont

We Are Not Alone

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pride 2009

"Pride 2009" - in celebration of GLBTQ pride and the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the birth of gay pride.



Lyrics HERE

More info HERE

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Anti-Gay Bigots Caught Lying Again

by John Aravosis of AmericaBlog:

I mentioned this a number of times, and the media that covers the religious right should especially take note. The religious right lies. A lot. You can't trust any "fact" they give you, as more often than not, it will be a fact ripped out of context to the point where if you read the context, the "fact" usually proves the exact opposite of what they're claiming. I found this when I was helping Senator Kennedy's office on gay issues back in 1993 and 94. I went through every document I could get my hands on that a particularly well known RR group had produced about gays. I then got the original sources for all of their footnotes. Of some 60 or so footnotes per document, I recall, very few were what any English teacher would consider "real" footnotes. It was rather astounding. Citing court cases to prove their point, and not telling you that they were citing the dissent - in other words, the court ruled for us, not them. Quite literally, there were documents in which not a single footnote was real. Anyway, read the blog post below, it's another prime example of how they operate. Liars to the core of their cold un-Christian hearts.

from Southern Beale blog:

Lost In Homophobic Translation


The ironically-named columnist Charlie Butts of OneNewsNow (the American Family Assn.'s "news" division) is leading a parade of wingnuts crowing over a statement on sexual orientation from the American Psychological Assn. This is supposedly “scientific proof” that there is no gay gene:

The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" -- meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are born that way.

For decades, the APA has not considered homosexuality a psychological disorder, while other professionals in the field consider it to be a "gender-identity" problem. But the new statement, which appears in a brochure called "Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality," states the following:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles...."


This story has been picked up at WingNut Daily and conservative blogs as proof that gays don’t deserve to get married or even exist because if sexual orientation is a “choice” not, you know, something you have no control over, then we don’t have to protect GLBT folks with hate crime laws and stuff, and obviously they are just that way because everyone loves a great queer party.

Or something.

So smelling the aroma of bullshit wafting my way, I headed over the APA to read this supposed new statement for myself. Tell me if you notice anything missing:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

Again, did anyone notice anything missing from Butts’ quote?

That's some "knockout punch," all right.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What Might A More Welcoming Climate Mean In Venango County?

AFTER 5 YEARS OF EXTENDING MARRIAGE TO GAY COUPLES, NEW STUDIES SHOW MASSACHUSETTS HAS ATTRACTED HIGHLY-SKILLED WORKERS AND EXPERIENCED ECONOMIC BOOST OF OVER $100 MILLION

from the Williams Institute:

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of same-sex couples marrying in Massachusetts, two new studies released today by UCLA's Williams Institute show clear economic gains for Massachusetts that have resulted from marriage equality. Massachusetts gained a competitive edge in attracting young, highly educated "creative class" professionals who are in same-sex couples, according to one study. The second study confirms that the weddings of same-sex couples have given a significant boost to the state's economy.

Earlier studies predicted that state economies would gain in several ways from allowing gay couples to marry. Economic development expert Richard Florida argued that policies promoting tolerance and equality would be a welcome mat for highly mobile creative class members whose creative energy drives economic growth. Other studies have predicted a wedding windfall for many businesses as same-sex couples and their guests spend money on weddings, gifts, and tourism. However, until today, no one had tested whether those predictions have actually happened.

"Data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey show that same-sex couples in the 'creative class' were 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts after 2004 than before," notes Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar at UCLA's Williams Institute and the author of one study. "The timing of this movement to Massachusetts suggests that those couples were flocking to the first state to allow them to marry."

Gates argues that this infusion of younger and highly educated same-sex couples could help improve the long-term economic prospects for Massachusetts.

As states struggle with the current downturn in the economy, marriage equality has also given a boost to businesses, according to the second study. A new survey of married same-sex couples shows that the typical gay or lesbian couple spent $7,400 on their weddings in Massachusetts, with one in ten couples spending more than $20,000. The study's analysis of state data on hotel occupancy tax payments confirms the boost from out-of-state guests at these weddings.

"Florists, caterers, hotels, bakers, restaurants, and many other businesses have gotten a share of the $111 million spent on the 12,000-plus weddings of same-sex couples," notes economist M. V. Lee Badgett, a study co-author and director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. "Allowing gay couples to marry won't end the recession, but their spending still helps in tough times for businesses."

The findings of these two studies confirm the predictions made in previous studies. They also indicate that other states allowing gay couples to marry-including Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine-will see similar economic gains.

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. These studies can be accessed at the Williams Institute website.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pennsylvania To Offer State Employees Domestic-Partner Benefits

Where Is Venango County On Issues Of Basic and Meaningful Equality?

by the Associated Press:

In breaking news, the Philadelphia Gay News reports that on July 1, Pennsylvania will become the 16th state to offer state employees domestic-partner benefits. This includes all current and retired employees (139,000) of the commonwealth.


“The Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund, a non-governmental agency that oversees the state benefits programs, will offer medical, prescription drug, dental, vision and hearing-aid benefits to the same- and opposite-sex domestic partners of all PEBTF-eligible employees, which amounts to about 81,000 individuals.

The approximately 60,000 retired state employees eligible for the Retired Employees Health Program will also be able to extend their benefits to domestic partners.”

The state had already offered employees life-insurance and long-term care options for domestic partners, but they were not eligible for medical benefits.

Philadelphia Gay News Publisher Mark Segal said, “This is the greatest step toward equal rights for the LGBT community in Pennsylvania since Gov. Shapp outlawed discrimination in state employment in 1975.”

Check out the full story here.

Perhaps It Is The Catholic Church That Is "Objectively Disordered"

Ex-Archbishop Speaks About Catholic Church and Homosexuality

By Laurie Goodstein for the NY Times:

In spring 2002, as the scandal over sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests was escalating, the long career of Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee, one of the church’s most venerable voices for change, went up in flames one May morning.


On the ABC program “Good Morning America,” the archbishop watched a man he had fallen in love with 23 years earlier say in an interview that the Milwaukee archdiocese had paid him $450,000 years before to keep quiet about his affair with the archbishop — an affair the man was now calling date rape.

The next day, the Vatican accepted Archbishop Weakland’s retirement.

Archbishop Weakland, who had been the intellectual touchstone for church reformers, has said little publicly since then. But now, in an interview and in a memoir scheduled for release next month, he is speaking out about how internal church politics affected his response to the fallout from his affair; how bishops and the Vatican cared more about the rights of abusive priests than about their victims; and why Catholic teaching on homosexuality is wrong.

“If we say our God is an all-loving god,” he said, “how do you explain that at any given time probably 400 million living on the planet at one time would be gay? Are the religions of the world, as does Catholicism, saying to those hundreds of millions of people, you have to pass your whole life without any physical, genital expression of that love?”

He said he had been aware of his homosexual orientation since he was a teenager and suppressed it until he became archbishop, when he had relationships with several men because of “loneliness that became very strong.”

Archbishop Weakland, 82, said he was probably the first bishop to come out of the closet voluntarily. He said he was doing so not to excuse his actions but to give an honest account of why it happened and to raise questions about the church’s teaching that homosexuality is “objectively disordered.”

“Those are bad words because they are pejorative,” he said.

Archbishop Weakland’s autobiography, “A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church” (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), covers his hardscrabble youth in Pennsylvania, his election as the worldwide leader of the Benedictine Order and his appointment by Pope Paul VI to the archbishop’s seat in Milwaukee, where he served for 25 years.

“He was one of the most gifted leaders in the post-Vatican II church in America,” said the Rev. Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest and associate editor of America, a Catholic magazine, “and certainly beloved by the left, and sadly that gave his critics more ammunition.”

In an interview at the Archbishop Weakland Center, which houses the archdiocesan cathedral offices in downtown Milwaukee, Archbishop Weakland said the church opened itself to change in the 1960s and ’70s after the Second Vatican Council but became increasingly centralized and doctrinally rigid under Pope John Paul II.

Archbishop Weakland was among those who publicly questioned the need for a male-only celibate priesthood. He also led American bishops in a two-year process of writing a pastoral letter on economic justice, holding hearings on the subject across the country.

A later effort by the American bishops to issue a pastoral letter on women was quashed by the Vatican, he said, because the Vatican did not want to give the national bishops conferences the authority to issue sweeping teaching documents.

The archbishop said it was partly because of his strained relations with Pope John Paul II that he did not tell Vatican officials in 1997 when he was threatened with a lawsuit by Paul J. Marcoux, the man with whom he had a relationship nearly 20 years before and who had appeared on “Good Morning America.”

Mr. Marcoux said then that he had been deprived of income from marketing a project he called “Christodrama” because of Archbishop Weakland’s interference. Archbishop Weakland said he probably should have gone to Rome and explained that he had had a relationship with Mr. Marcoux, that he had ended it by writing an emotional letter that Mr. Marcoux still had and that the archbishop’s lawyers regarded Mr. Marcoux’s threats as blackmail.

But, the archbishop said, a highly placed friend in Rome advised him that church officials preferred that such things be hushed up, which is “the Roman way.”

“I suppose, also, being frank, I wouldn’t have wanted to be labeled in Rome at that point as gay,” Archbishop Weakland said. “Rome is a little village.”

Asked if he had regrets about the $450,000 payment to Mr. Marcoux, he said, “I certainly worry about the sum.”

The morning in 2002 that Mr. Marcoux surfaced on national television, Archbishop Weakland said he phoned the pope’s representative, or apostolic nuncio, in Washington — Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo — who, he said, told him, “Of course you are going to deny it.”

Archbishop Weakland said he told the nuncio that while he could deny emphatically that it was date rape, “I can’t deny that something happened between us.” (Archbishop Montalvo died in 2006.)

Archbishop Weakland is still pained that his scandal, involving a man in his 30s, became intertwined with the larger church scandal over child sexual abuse.

But at the time, many Catholics in Milwaukee said they were angrier about the secret settlement with Mr. Marcoux than with the sexual liaison.

Archbishop Weakland and the Milwaukee archdiocese are also the target of several lawsuits accusing them of failing to remove abusive priests, allowing more minors to be victimized.

In the interview, he blamed psychologists for advising bishops that perpetrators could be treated and returned to work, and he blamed the Vatican’s tribunals for spending years debating whether to remove abusers from the priesthood. In one case, he said, the Vatican courts took so long deciding whether to defrock a priest who had abused dozens of deaf students that the priest died before a decision was reached.

“The concern was more about the priests than about the victims,” Archbishop Weakland said.

In Milwaukee, Peter Isely, the Midwest director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said Archbishop Weakland ultimately failed his people.

Mr. Isely pointed out that while Archbishop Weakland was waiting for the Vatican courts to defrock abusive priests, he allowed them to continue working in ministry without informing parishioners of their past. And he said the $450,000 payment was particularly galling to victims because many received “no compensation whatsoever.”

In June, Archbishop Weakland, who has been living in a Catholic retirement community since his resignation, is moving to St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, N.J., where he said he would be closer to his family in Pennsylvania and grow old in the care of a community of Benedictine monks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How Low Can Anti-Gay Activists Go?

by Wayne Besen:

It was unusually satisfying to watch beauty contestant turned Bible-thumper Carrie Prejean crash and burn. In the bat of an eyelash, she went from Christian role model to wannabe underwear model after racy pictures of her surfaced. "They were quite inappropriate and certainly not photos befitting a beauty queen," Alicia Jacobs, a Miss USA judge told NBC's Today Show.


The verb "strip" is the one most associated with Prejean's name these days. She stripped her clothes, may be stripped of her Miss California crown and was certainly stripped of her moral authority as a spokesperson for marriage. In her brief stint as America's scold, she forgot to memorize one Bible passage: "Judge not lest thou be judged."

What's amazing is that the circus-like antics of Prejean are the rule, not the exception for today's anti-gay activists. There has clearly been a brain drain among our opponents -- with the conservative intelligentsia largely running from GLBT issues. Filling the vacuum, are the vacuous -- with little to offer, other than comedic relief.


For example, Joe the Plumber plunged into culture wars with his usual thoughtful advice: "I personally still think it's wrong...you know, God is pretty explicit in what we're supposed to do--what man and woman are for...I've had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn't have them anywhere near my children."

Joe the Plumber looked like Einstein compared to Maine Rep. Bernard Ayotte (R). During a state House debate on marriage equality (passed 89-58), Ayotte said that he couldn't support the legislation because it would provide legal protections to people whom he said suffered from hormonal imbalances.


"By all indications, homosexuality in human beings seems to be generated by imbalances in the human body," Ayotte (pictured right) said. "As legislators, it is important that we do not base our statutes on genetic aberrations."Even by the low standards set by anti-gay activists, this level of ignorance was shocking, yet indicative of how far the quality of our opponents has fallen.

Joining the chorus of anti-gay clowns was former Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry, best remembered for smoking crack and allowing the city's rats to grow as large as cats.


A longtime gay rights supporter, he was the lone city councilman to vote against a bill, passed 12-1, to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the District.

"All hell is going to break lose," Barry predicted. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this." Columnist Leonard Pitts summarized Barry's political cowardice when he said the former mayor "punked out."


Sharing the anti-gay spotlight was caustic talk show host Michael Savage and the Kansas preacher noted for picketing military funerals with "God Hates Fags" signsFred Phelps, Fred Phelps (Pictured) and his wife, Shirley. They were banned from visiting England and publicly scorned for their bigoted views. While I do not agree with their banishment (neither do civil liberties groups), it does force social conservatives into the PR nightmare of having to turn Savage and Phelps into "creep celebres."

Even the "mainstream" anti-gay activists seem to have come unhinged. In stating his opposition to federal hate crime legislation, James Dobson appeared in a video where he falsely claimed that the inclusion of "sexual orientation" opened the door to, "bisexuality, exhibitionism, fetishism, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, voyeurism, bestiality." Dobson added for effect, "I have to ask, 'have we all gone completely mad?'"Huckabee


Oddly enough, Dobson lives in Colorado, one of twelve states that have a hate crime law offering protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There are also 31 states that offer such protection based solely on sexual orientation. In these 43 states, can Dobson point to a problem with hate crime laws being applied to necrophilia or bestiality? If not, his bizarre and paranoid ranting says more about his overactive imagination, than it does about the reality of such laws.

Of course, for the sake of sheer amusement, we can't leave out the absurdity of Bristol Palin hawking abstinence. With baby in-tow and embittered ex-boyfriend on tail, she is the poster girl for the social conservative mantra: "do as I say, not as I do."


Let me reiterate, so you can fully appreciate and savor the situation. The new faces of social conservatism are: Carrie Prejean, Joe the Plumber, Marion Barry, Bernard Ayotte, Michael Savage, Fred Phelps and Bristol Palin.

With such luminaries, it should be no surprise that the GLBT community has had a string of incredible victories. Somewhere in the process of passing the torch to the next generation, anti-gay activists have stumbled and are in danger of burning down the homophobic house.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

17th Annual Erie Pride Picnic on June 13

by Michael Mahler

Erie Gay News will once again sponsor the annual Erie Pride Picnic.

The 17th Annual Erie Pride Picnic will be on Saturday, June 13 from 1 to 6 PM at the Rotary Pavilion at Presque Isle State Park, Erie, PA. This is the same location that we have used for the past few years.


Food will be served from 2 to 5 PM. We will provide hot dogs, Sloppy Joes, beverages, and table setting. Please bring a dish to share.

Alcohol is prohibited, as are vendor sales. However, info tables are welcome! Please contact Michael Mahler by June 6 if you will be setting up a table.

Karaoke was a big hit last year, and so we are bringing it back! Thanks to DJ J-Roc for his help.

Donations to support the picnic will be gratefully accepted. We encourage people to register in advance and volunteer online at http://www.eriegaynews.com/pride/register.php. (There is also a link to register online in the right side bar of all pages at http://www.eriegaynews.com) Please see the contact info at the end of this article if you don’t have online access, or further questions.

Because we believe that an important part of being a community is recognizing the greater community, participants are also asked to bring a non-perishable item for the Second Harvest Food Bank of NW PA.

Friends, family, and children are most welcome! We will have games and children’s activities. There is a playground near the site. Parents are responsible for supervising their own children.

We will be taking the Annual Family Portrait at 4 PM. Anyone is welcome to be included in the portrait, and it is also okay not to be in the photo.

Please check in at the registration table when you arrive. If you have registered online, we will just need your name. If you don’t want to be photographed, get a red dot to put on your name tag. We will also have a table to take face photos that will appear at http://www.eriegaynews.com for those interested.

The Pride Picnic has been around since 1992 and is the largest Pride event in Erie County. For more information, contact Michael Mahler at(814) 456-9833, info@eriegaynews.com, or check out the web page at http://picnic.eriegaynews.com.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Gay Season

By Lisa Neff, 365gay.com

Madison Square Garden filled to near capacity in early May to celebrate the 90th birthday of folk legend Pete Seeger.

Seeger adapted “Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything There is a Season)” from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

It was the right song for the mid-1960s, for those days leading up to the Summer of Love.

And it is the right song for now:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down

A time to dance, a time to mourn

A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

We turned through a fall of frustration, a November in which we lost to the religious right on ballot initiatives in Florida, Arkansas, Arizona and California.

A time to lose.

A time to mourn.

We turned through a winter of weariness as we learned of the purchasing power of hate, of the wealth that religious organizations pumped into those anti-gay ballot initiatives, and as we learned of a Bush administration that declined to join in a United Nations declaration of human rights for GLBT people.

A time of hate.

A time to heal.

And we turned through a spring of celebration as we secured victories in state after state and in the U.S. Capitol.

A time to gain.

A time to love.

A time for the Iowa Supreme Court to clear the way for same-sex couples to marry.

A time for lawmakers in Maine, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire to vote for same-sex marriage — not partnership benefits, not civil unions but marriage.

A time for Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law.

A time for Maine Gov. John Baldacci to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law.

A time for the Vermont Legislature to override a governor’s veto and enact its same-sex marriage bill into law.

A time for the D.C. Council to vote to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

A time for New York Gov. David Paterson to introduce equal marriage legislation stating, “Rights should not be stifled by fears. What we should understand is silence should not be a response to injustice.”

A time for Colorado to pass legislation recognizing same-sex partnerships.

A time for Maryland lawmakers to approve domestic partner benefits for state employees.

A time for Washington state to expand its partnership benefits and add gender identity to its hate crimes act.

A time for the U.S. House to pass — and send to the U.S. Senate — an inclusive hate crimes bill.

A time for the Obama administration to support the UN declaration affirming human rights for gays.

A time, despite big boasts from the right, for lawmakers to kill an anti-gay adoption bill in Kentucky.

A time for 300 members of the clergy to lobby Congress for the passage of hate crimes, employment non-discrimination and safe-schools legislation and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

What a long strange trip it’s been since June 1969 — 40 years ago, when the modern GLBT civil rights movement gained national attention with the demonstrations at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, N.Y.

Turn, turn, turn.

And we now turn into summer.

A summer of what?

A summer that should bring gayety to our Pride parades like never before, a summer that should bring a time to dance, a time to plant, a time to cast away stones before we turn into the fall and a time to build up and gather stones together.