Friday, November 26, 2010


This past August, Coudersport, PA resident Robert Wagner convened a “Bible Believing Christian” forum at the Coudersport Public Library at which he threatened to violently attack transgender individuals with a baseball bat.

Forum “special guest” Diane Gramley, whose Venango County-based American Family Association of Pennsylvania regularly plants seeds of suspicion about the dangers posed by “men who think they are women,” Gramley's disparaging term for transgender females, condoned Wagner's incitement without a word of protest.

(The American Family Association, parent organization of the AFAofPA, was recently designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization.)

A video of Wagner's verbal assault, which attracted national media attention, can be viewed here:

Each November, the world commemorates the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to mourn and honor the many transgender lives tragically cut short by hatred, fear, and violence.

We are writing this open letter to call on Wagner and Gramley to take responsibility for the consequences of their rhetoric, publicly apologize for their remarks, and denounce anti-transgender bullying, discrimination and violence.

We also urge readers to raise their voices with others in the community to express support for the right of all people to live free of fear and discrimination, with dignity and respect, regardless of their actual or perceived gender identity and expression.

Please let your voice be heard by writing a letter-to-the-editor of your local paper and sharing news of your action here, on the Out In The Silence blog or the Out In The Silence website.

Thank You,

Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

American Family Association Designated a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center

Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda

by Evelyn Schlatter:

Even as some well-known anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family moderate their views, a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities.

These groups’ influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the “facts” they disseminate about homosexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups and even news organizations. Of the 18 groups profiled, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will be listing 13 next year as hate groups (eight were previously listed), reflecting further research into their views; those are each marked with an asterisk.

Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.

The report includes the entry of the American Family Association, whose Pennsylvania chapter is based in Venango County, headed by anti-LGBT extremist Diane Gramley.
See the FULL REPORT Here.

Hate Groups Waiting In The Wings

from Truth Wins Out:

A steady theme of my weekly column this year is the notion that the LGBT community has reached a tipping point and is winning the war. While the trajectory of history is clear, there will be another 10-20 years of hard-fought battles ahead. During this period, life for LGBT people will gradually improve, punctuated by unsettling instances of violence caused by the increased desperation of anti-gay activists.

The only way the LGBT community can lose is if America is overcome by extremism. Thus, it is disturbing to see the radicalization of our opponents, and watch as these once semi-nuanced organizations have simply gone nuts.

This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a landmark report on anti-gay defamation. The SPLC certified several new hate groups, including well-known organizations, such as The Family Research Council and The American Family Association.

A perfect example of alarming rhetoric came from FRC spokesman Peter Sprigg. Responding to a question about uniting gay partners during the immigration process, Sprigg said, “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them.”

Last February, Sprigg appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and said, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.”

“So we should outlaw gay behavior?” Matthews asked.

“Yes,” Sprigg replied.

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer claimed in a May 27 blog post that “homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.”

The Traditional Values Coalition, which was already an SPLC hate group, has a page on its website headlined “Homosexual Urban Legends”, which ridiculously asserts without evidence that, “[t]he cold, hard fact is that teens who are struggling with homosexual feelings are more likely to be sexually molested by a homosexual school counselor or teacher than to commit suicide over their feelings of despair.”

The words spewed by these organizations can create a climate that leads to violence, as they give unstable people a way to rationalize their aggression. “Hey, I’m just cleansing my community of immoral perverts,” the deranged thug might think after being exposed to the hate speech disseminated by these organizations.

In its report, SPLC analyzed hate crime statistics based on FBI figures. The SPLC compared the rate of victimization for gay people to that of the other groups. The figures show that homosexuals are 2.4 times more likely to suffer a violent hate crime attack than Jews. In the same way, gays are 2.6 times more likely to be attacked than blacks; 4.4 times more likely than Muslims; 13.8 times more likely than Latinos; and 41.5 times more likely than whites. The bottom line, according to SPLC is that, “Homosexuals are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime.”

So, while life is improving for LGBT people – particularly in large cities and college towns – there is always the looming threat of random and capricious violence. Unlike heterosexuals, same-sex couples cannot enjoy holding hands in public without scanning their surroundings and analyzing, if only subconsciously, the risk of attack. If a person – gay or straight – does not fit gender norms, trouble is always lurking, fueled by the rhetoric of hate groups that inflame ignoble passions.

What truly concerns me are external issues that can lead to demagoguery and scapegoating. The high unemployment rate, a decaying infrastructure, the slow death of the American Dream, and political instability in Washington are factors that could undercut the hard-fought gains of the LGBT movement.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes that, “inequality in the United States has soared to levels comparable to those in Argentina six decades ago — with 1 percent controlling 24 percent of American income in 2007.”

Another Times columnist, Thomas Friedman quoted a Nov. 4 speech by Education Secretary Arne Duncan who said, “One-quarter of U.S. high school students drop out or fail to graduate on time. Almost one million students leave our schools for the streets each year… America’s youth are now tied for ninth in the world in college attainment.”

Even in areas the U.S. is thought to excel in, we are falling behind. For example, the U.S. is ranked 22nd worldwide in Internet connection speed.

As many Americans grow angrier, poorer, and fall further behind, they may begin to look for answers in the wrong places. Stepping in to fill the dangerous vacuum are political extremists who will point fingers and blame minorities to increase their grip on power.

The SPLC report is a sober reminder that we must remain vigilant in combating extremism. There are well-organized and wealthy hate machines waiting in the wings, poised to cause tremendous harm to LGBT people if the opportunity ever presents itself.

Is This What "Traditional Family Values" Means?

Man sentenced in baseball bat death
2010-11-23 / AP News

ALLENTOWN (AP) — An eastern Pennsylvania man has been sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison for the baseball bat beating death of his estranged girlfriend last year.

Forty-three-year-old Alfredo Reyes Ortiz pleaded guilty last month to third-degree murder in the death of 29-yearold Francesca Isley. Authorities said he beat Isley in July 2009 with a wooden baseball bat, splitting it into several pieces, and then thrust one piece down her throat.

Lehigh County Judge Kelly Banach called Ortiz “a dangerous man” Monday and told him he needed to be locked away “for as long as the law permits.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bob Barr, the Architect of the Defense of Marriage Act, Again Calls for its Repeal

by Michael Jones for

When Bob Barr was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he became famous for quite a few things. Conservative as they come, Barr was an adamant supporter of impeaching President Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. He also once tried to get the Pentagon to ban Wicca in the military, and made controversial statements about how he couldn't take people with "cult hairstyles" seriously in meetings.

But despite these more bombastic and colorful moments of his Congressional career, Barr was also critically involved with major pieces of legislation. One of his biggest "accomplishments," much to the dismay of the LGBT community, was authoring a piece of legislation known as the Defense of Marriage Act, known by most as DOMA. Barr wrote DOMA in 1996, fearing that state courts might make moves to legalize same-sex marriage, and he didn't want other states or the federal government to have to recognize those laws.

As we all know, DOMA passed with flying colors. And 14 years later, it's still on the books, preventing same-sex couples from hundreds of benefits that heterosexual-married couples take for granted. The fact that gay couples can't sponsor their binational partner for legal immigration status? It's because of DOMA. The fact that gay couples can't inherit social security benefits or share health insurance if one of them works for the federal government? It's because of DOMA. The fact that a legally-married gay couple in Massachusetts can travel to Florida (or any of the other 40+ states that do not recognize marriage equality) and be treated like a second class citizen? Yup, that's DOMA's fault, too.

All of this should be enough to get a picture of Bob Barr's mug placed on every gay person's dartboard around the country. Except now, Barr admits that he was wrong to write DOMA, and is urging Congress to repeal the Act, which he says failed miserably and actually ends up violating core parts of the Constitution.

Huh. Anyone know that song, "I Wish That I Knew What I Know Now When I Was Younger?" If only Bob Barr had been privy to this song in 1996.

As Pam's House Blend notes in some awesome coverage of a November 12 symposium entitled "Legal, Secular, and Religious Perspectives on Marriage Equality/Marriage Protection/Same-Sex Marriage" at St. John's University School of Law in New York City, Barr once again called DOMA flawed legislation.

"Here we had a piece of federal legislation that said for federal law purposes only...this is what marriage means, reflecting the vast majority of Members of Congress representing the vast majority of people in the country at the time in 1996. A lawful union of one man and one woman. Yet what happened is rather than simply provide a shield for purposes of distributing federal moneys pursuant to that definition, the Defense of Marriage Act over the intervening years has been used as a club to force states not to adopt any definition of marriage other than the one that is supposed to apply just for federal law purposes," Barr said.

DOMA as a brutal club. Sounds like an apt analogy.

Barr continued by saying that he thinks LGBT Americans ought to have the legal right to marry. As Tony Varona reported for Pam's House Blend, Barr said that marriage equality was a "fundamental freedom."

"Speaking in favor of the right of same-sex couples to marry, Barr said that marriage equality 'is an issue of individual liberty,'" Varona reports. "He observed that 'back in the 1850s' marriage 'was considered for what it truly is -- a personal relationship, a contract between two individuals.' It was, according to Barr, only 'after the regulatory state began to take hold that government realized that [the regulation of marriage] was another way to control people.'"

So what's it say when the author of a particular piece of legislation says that it should be thrown out with the garbage? Seems like it says that it's time for DOMA to go.

Openly Gay Student Defends Teacher at School Board Meeting

Jay McDowell, a high school teacher in Howell, Michigan, was suspended last month for disciplining an anti-gay student. At a recent school board meeting, openly gay 14-year-old Graeme Taylor came to McDowell's defense with an incredibly articulate/inspiring speech.

Would students in Venango County feel safe or empowered enough to speak out so courageously?