Monday, January 31, 2011

Documentary About Bullying & Homophobia in Venango County Opens Inaugural Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Washington, DC

(Washington, DC, January 19, 2011) – The first DC Human Rights Watch Film Festival will screen five works with distinctive human rights themes each Wednesday from February 2 to March 2, 2011, Human Rights Watch announced today.

The festival, a co-presentation of Human Rights Watch and The West End Cinema, is designed as a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.

“The DC Festival brings a reflection of the condition of the world in which we live to one of the world's most important human rights stages: the capital of the nation that has long sought to promote human rights around the globe,” said John Biaggi, director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

The opening night feature on February 2, is “Out in the Silence,” a documentary by Washington, DC-based filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer that looks at an issue of urgent human rights concern: the need for full inclusion, justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States.

The documentary follows the story of a small American town (in Venango County) confronting a firestorm of controversy ignited by a same-sex wedding announcement in the local paper, and the subsequent brutal bullying of a gay teen. It challenges audiences to rethink their values and consider how they can help close the gaps that have divided families, friends, and communities on these issues.

“In light of the public debates over issues such as military service and marriage equality, not-to-mention anti-gay bullying, teen suicides, and safe schools, the screening of this film in Washington, DC could not be more timely,” said Boris Dittrich, acting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender program director at Human Rights Watch.

Produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, “Out in the Silence” premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York. It won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and has received praise from critics and festivals worldwide.

The film's directors say they are most interested in using it as a vehicle for grass-roots outreach, education, and civic engagement, particularly in small towns and rural communities where there often isn't any visible or organized LGBT presence at all. Wilson and Hamer have conducted more than 300 town-hall-style screening events in libraries and other public venues across the country, reaching nearly every county in Pennsylvania, and doing rural tours of Oregon, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

“The characters in the film are just ordinary people – a kid and his mom, an Evangelical preacher and his wife, a lesbian couple who start a business – but their stories get at the heart of how anti-LGBT stigma and repression play out and continue to harm individuals in such communities,” Hamer said.

“We're hoping that this Human Rights Watch screening here in DC, from which so much of the harmful anti-LGBT rhetoric and activities emanate, will shine new light on these issues and help people, particularly our elected officials and other high-profile leaders, begin to find common ground to end the madness once and for all,” Wilson said

Wilson, Hamer, and Dittrich, will be at The West End Cinema, 2301 M Street NW, for a post-screening dialogue with the audience.

Visit for more information.

For a press kit and to see a film trailer:



“A stunning documentary” -Philadelphia Inquirer

“Film Critic's Pick-of-the-Week” -New York times

“Tough. Wrenching. Inspiring.” - OUT Magazine

“Most moving are the stories of heterosexuals who transform because of their relationships with GLBT people.” -American Library Association

“Though the film is made by two gay men, it doesn't seek to promote a “gay agenda” or to stereotype the “religious right.” It's simply a matter of trying to understand attitudes in small-town America.”
-Christianity Today

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Is Beaten to Death - U.S. Evangelicals Have Blood On Their Hands

The "Christians" who terrorize LGBT people in the U.S. and now Africa and other parts of the world are one and the same. Enough Is Enough!

Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Is Beaten to Death

By Jeffrey Gettleman for The New York Times:

NAIROBI, Kenya — David Kato knew he was a marked man.

As the most outspoken gay rights advocate in Uganda, a country where homophobia is so severe that Parliament is considering a bill to execute gay people, Mr. Kato had received a stream of death threats, his friends said. A few months ago, a Ugandan newspaper ran an antigay diatribe with Mr. Kato’s picture on the front page under a banner urging, “Hang Them.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Kato was beaten to death with a hammer in his rough-and-tumble neighborhood. Police officials were quick to chalk up the motive to robbery, but members of the small and increasingly besieged gay community in Uganda suspect otherwise.

“David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” Val Kalende, the chairwoman of one of Uganda’s gay rights groups, said in a statement. “The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.”

Ms. Kalende was referring to visits in March 2009 by a group of American evangelicals, who held rallies and workshops in Uganda discussing how to turn gay people straight, how gay men sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” intended to “defeat the marriage-based society.”

The Americans involved said they had no intention of stoking a violent reaction. But the antigay bill was drafted shortly thereafter. Some of the Ugandan politicians and preachers who wrote it had attended those sessions and said that they had discussed the legislation with the Americans.

After growing international pressure and threats from a few European countries to cut assistance — Uganda relies on hundreds of millions of dollars of aid — Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, indicated that the bill would be scrapped.

But more than a year later, that has not happened, and the legislation remains a simmering issue in Parliament. Some political analysts say the bill could be passed in the coming months, after a general election in February that is expected to return Mr. Museveni, who has been in office for 25 years, to power.

On Thursday, Don Schmierer, one of the American evangelicals who visited Uganda in 2009, said Mr. Kato’s death was “horrible.”

“Naturally, I don’t want anyone killed, but I don’t feel I had anything to do with that,” said Mr. Schmierer, who added that in Uganda he had focused on parenting skills. He also said that he had been a target of threats himself, recently receiving more than 600 messages of hate mail related to his visit.

“I spoke to help people,” he said, “and I’m getting bludgeoned from one end to the other.”

Many Africans view homosexuality as an immoral Western import, and the continent is full of harsh homophobic laws. In northern Nigeria, gay men can face death by stoning. In Kenya, which is considered one of the more Westernized nations in Africa, gay people can be sentenced to years in prison.

But Uganda seems to be on the front lines of this battle. Conservative Christian groups that espouse antigay beliefs have made great headway in this country and wield considerable influence. Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, who describes himself as a devout Christian, has said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

At the same time, American groups that defend gay rights have also poured money into Uganda to help the beleaguered gay community.

In October, a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone (with a circulation of roughly 2,000 and no connection to the American magazine) published an article that included photos and the whereabouts of gay men and lesbians, including several well-known activists like Mr. Kato.

The paper said homosexuals were raiding schools and recruiting children, a belief that is quite widespread in Uganda and has helped drive the homophobia.

Mr. Kato and a few other activists sued the paper and won. This month, Uganda’s High Court ordered Rolling Stone to pay hundreds of dollars in damages and to cease publishing the names of people it said were gay.

But the danger remained.

“I had to move houses,” said Stosh Mugisha, a woman who is going through a transition to become a man. “People tried to stone me. It’s so scary. And it’s getting worse.”

On Thursday, Giles Muhame, Rolling Stone’s managing editor, said he did not think that Mr. Kato’s killing had anything to do with what his paper had published.

“There is no need for anxiety or for hype,” he said. “We should not overblow the death of one.”

But that one man was considered a founding father of Uganda’s nascent gay rights movement. In an interview in 2009, Mr. Kato shared his life story, how he was raised in a conservative family where “we grew up brainwashed that it was wrong to be in love with a man.”

He was a high school teacher who had graduated from some of Uganda’s best schools, and he moved to South Africa in the mid-1990s, where he came out. A few years ago, he organized what he claimed was Uganda’s first gay rights news conference in Kampala, the capital, and said he was punched in the face and cracked in the nose by police officers soon afterward.

Friends said that Mr. Kato had recently put an alarm system in his house and was killed by an acquaintance, someone who had been inside several times before and was seen by neighbors on Wednesday. Mr. Kato’s neighborhood on the outskirts of Kampala is known as a rough one, where several people have recently been beaten to death with iron bars.

Judith Nabakooba, a police spokeswoman, said Mr. Kato’s death did not appear to be a hate crime, though the investigation had just started. “It looks like theft, as some things were stolen,” Ms. Nabakooba said.

But Nikki Mawanda, a friend who was born female and lives as a man, said: “This is a clear signal. You don’t know who’s going to do it to you.”

Mr. Kato was in his mid-40s, his friends said. He was a fast talker, fidgety, bespectacled, slightly built and constantly checking over his shoulder, even in the envelope of darkness of an empty lot near a disco, where he was interviewed in 2009.

He said then that he wanted to be a “good human rights defender, not a dead one, but an alive one.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Traditional Family Values" - American Family Association of Pennsylvania-style

The American Family Association of Pennsylvania, a Venango County-based Hate Group, Regularly Smears LGBT People As Incapable of Upholding Traditional Family Values.

Is This What Is Meant By "Traditional Family Values," AFAofPA-style?

(Pictured at right is AFA of PA President, Diane Gramley)

"Amish Man Charged In Murder Case Now Dead"

from The Oil City Derrick:

An Amish man who brutally murdered and disemboweled his 29-yearold wife in front of their two children in 1993 was found dead Friday in a barn in Cambridge Springs, Crawford County.

Meadville state police said Edward Gingerich, 45, committed suicide by hanging himself in the lower level of a barn located on Miller Station Road, in Cambridge Springs.

Gingerich was pronounced dead at the scene by Crawford County Chief Deputy Coroner Scott Schell.

According to Schell, Gingerich had been staying with some friends, George and Stephanie Schroeck, at their residence on Miller Station Road.

Stephanie Schroeck told Schell that Gingerich had gone out to the barn around 10 a.m. to feed the horses. When she did not see Gingerich around the farm several hours later, she went searching for him, Schell said.

“She thought it was unusual that she hadn’t seen him around the farm all day,” Schell said.

Schell said Schroeck called 911 around 3:18 p.m. after finding Gingerich hanging in the barn.

In 1993, Gingerich became a household name throughout the region when he killed his wife, Katie Shetler Gingerich.

Gingerich confessed to pushing his wife down on the floor and crushing her skull. He then cut her stomach open with a kitchen knife and removed her organs. The couple’s 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter witnessed the entire incident, sources said.

In the highly publicized Meadville trial, Gingerich’s attorneys said Gingerich suffered from schizophrenia and thought he was possessed by the devil. Gingerich was on medication for schizophrenia but stopped taking it due to side effects. Reports also said that Gingerich sought treatment from a Cambridge Springs chiropractor named Merritt Terrell for six months prior to the incident, including just hours before the murder.

Gingerich was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter — the first Amish person in the U.S. to be found guilty of murder — but was deemed mentally ill, and sentenced to five years in prison under psychiatric watch.

Gingerich was released from a state regional correctional facility in Mercer on March 19, 1998, five years and one day after the murder.

Full details of the story leading up to the murder were detailed in the true-crime novel “Crimson Stain,” published in May 2000 by Edinboro University professor Jim Fisher.

Fisher and others said Gingerich struggled early on with the confines of the Brownhill Amish community in which he lived. Following prison, Gingerich spent the next 12-plus years struggling with life outside of the Amish community.

“Of course, he was shunned from the Amish community,” Schell said. “He was not allowed to live in that community any more.”

In 1998, Gingerich moved to a Mennonite halfway house in Michigan, where he worked for a sawmill. Sources said Gingerich was eventually kicked out of the Michigan enclave for undisclosed reasons and moved back to Pennsylvania in 2007.

Gingerich was back in the news shortly after his return to the area when he was arrested for concealing the whereabouts of his then 17-year-old daughter in April 2007. Both children lived with their grandparents, Daniel and Mary Gingerich, following the 1993 murder.

Gingerich pleaded guilty to charges and was sentenced to six months probation and ordered to pay $500 in fines. He was also ordered to cease contact with his daughter and other family.

In 2008, Gingerich was once again arrested, this time for illegally possessing and using a firearm while deer hunting. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and served three months in Crawford County jail.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Is Rep. Barney Frank Now in the Cross Hairs of Venango County-based Hate Group, the American Family Association (of Pennsylvania)?

Is Diane Gramley of the Venango County-based American Family Association (of Pennsylvania), an official "hate group" as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, now putting openly-gay Congressman Barney Frank in the cross hairs of the right-wing 'culture war' by saying:

"Barney Frank and others in Washington have a goal of normalizing, through legislation, a lifestyle that has been considered abhorrent and unnatural throughout history. Hopefully new members of the 112th Congress will not view their job as simply a game in which to keep score, but a responsibility to preserve the American Way. America spoke on November 2nd and the returning members of Congress as well as the new ones need to listen to what America had to say.

"We'll put Barney Frank on notice. A Sleeping Giant has awakened and the majority of Americans do not share in your goal setting. Americans are tired of waking up to find an America that they hardly recognize. This is not a game to them, it is a war to get our country back."

Here is Gramley's "News Release," frighteningly titled "Let The Games Begin," in its entirety (pasted below before it is purged from her web site):

American Family Association of Pennsylvania
News Release
For Immediate Release: January 5, 2011
Contact: Diane Gramley 1.814.271.9078 or 1.814.437.5355

Congress is Sworn In: “Let the Games Begin!”

(Harrisburg) — Today the 112th Congress was sworn in. But apparently some view their job on “The Hill” as simply a means to further their own agenda of remaking the United States into something most Americans would not recognize, noted the American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA of PA), a statewide traditional values organization.

After President Obama signed repeal of the law banning homosexuals in the military, misnamed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ after a convoluted Clinton policy, openly homosexual Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts was quite honest about his intention as well as those of others who want to normalize the homosexual lifestyle. He said, “For those who are worried about the radical homosexual agenda, let me put them on notice. Two down, two to go.” He was referencing the passage of hate crimes and repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and he is simply waiting for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (another misnamed bill) and the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) before he has a complete victory.

“To Barney Frank and others this is simply a game, a means to further their personal agenda, and they are keeping score. Apparently they are not concerned about what is best for this nation, if they consider it in opposition to what they want, they will ignore the facts and vote to force all of Americans to accept homosexuality as normal. Some examples of ignoring the facts are the denial that there is a homosexual agenda and CDC statistics about the dangers of the homosexual lifestyle, “remarked Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of PA.

Barney Frank and others in Washington have a goal of normalizing, through legislation, a lifestyle that has been considered abhorrent and unnatural throughout history. Hopefully new members of the 112th Congress will not view their job as simply a game in which to keep score, but a responsibility to preserve the American Way. America spoke on November 2nd and the returning members of Congress as well as the new ones need to listen to what America had to say.

“We’ll put Barney Frank on notice. ‘A Sleeping Giant has awakened and the majority of Americans do not share in your goal setting.’ Americans are tired of waking up to find an America that they hardly recognize. This is not a game to them, it is a war to get our country back,” Gramley further stated.

# # #

For information about the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign for Fairness & Equality, see this link:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heated and Hateful Rhetoric Is A Threat To All, Not Just Elected-Officials

In the wake of the recent tragic events in Tucson, where a troubled young man went on a shooting rampage that killed six people, including a federal judge, and gravely wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords, what is likely to be a wrenching debate over anger, vitriolic rhetoric, and violence in American political culture has been set off.

We can not help but be reminded of the inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence that emanate from those who call themselves "Bible Believing Christians" in the hills of northwestern Pennsylvania and be concerned about the consequences for those that are in their crosshairs.

We reprise this article as a renewed call to conscience for us all.

"Bible Believing Response" to OUT IN THE SILENCE Promotes Anti-Transgender Violence

Dispatch from Coudersport, PA:

by Joe Wilson, August, 31, 2010:

Diane Gramley sat peacefully behind Robert Wagner in the Coudersport Public Library as the retired physician shared his views on transgender individuals with the assembled audience. “I'm gonna put a ball bat in my car,” he said, “and if I ever see a guy [Wagner refuses to use proper pronouns] coming out of a bathroom that my granddaughter's in, I'm gonna use the ball bat on him.” Moments later he added: “In the good old days, before 'she-males' existed, they just called such people perverts.”

Gramley is no stranger to such ideas. As President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Family Association, a 'traditional family values' organization based in Mississippi, she spends much of her time planting similar seeds of suspicion about the dangers posed by “men who think they are women,” her disparaging term for transgender females. She also crusades relentlessly against what she and the AFA call the “homosexual agenda” and the type of legal protections that her and Dr. Wagner's threatening rhetoric suggests are needed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Gramley was in Coudersport, a small town of 2,600 residents in the sparsely populated north-central part of the state known as the Pennsylvania Wilds, as a special guest of Dr. Wagner for what he titled “A Bible Believing Christian's Response to OUT IN THE SILENCE,” my documentary film about the quest for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people in the small town where I was born and raised, Oil City, PA, just a two-hour drive from Coudersport.

Gramley, who also happens to call the Oil City area home, plays a central role in OUT IN THE SILENCE as a result of the firestorm of controversy she helped to ignite in opposition to the publication of my same-sex marriage announcement in the local paper. It was that controversy that compelled my partner, Dean Hamer, and I to go back to my hometown with our cameras to document what life is like there for LGBT people, and to show hopeful and inspiring stories about the growing movement for equality.

The film was produced in partnership with Penn State Public Broadcasting, received support from the Sundance Institute, premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, screened in Tribeca Cinemas Doc Series, and has been broadcast on PBS stations around the country. We're now using it as an educational tool in a grassroots campaign to help raise LGBT visibility and to bring people together in small towns like Oil City and Coudersport to begin building bridges across the gaps that have divided families, friends, and entire communities on these issues for far too long.

As part of this campaign, OUT IN THE SILENCE had screened just a month earlier for a standing-room-only crowd in the Coudersport Public Library despite vehement opposition from Dr. Wagner and the efforts of the local Tea Party and a small group of fundamentalist preachers to shut the event down and have the library 'de-funded' for making its space available for such a program.

Wagner's “Bible Believing Response,” he told the crowd of approximately 60 local church people, “was intended to expose the filmmakers’ real agenda and to question the directors’ assertion that the community should tolerate alternative lifestyles.”

During the two hour program, Wagner asked special guest Gramley a few questions about her experiences as a minor subject of the film, but he used her more as a prop, seated silently behind him, providing an odd sort of legitimacy as he put forth offensive theories and mischaracterizations about LGBT people, including that “AIDS is the gay plague” and “gays can't have families.”

Dean and I were in the library for the presentation. We made the six-hour drive to Coudersport from our home in Washington, DC because I wanted to bear witness to this event, to experience for myself, if only for a few hours, what it feels like to be so close to such willful ignorance and brazen cruelty.

As I sat there, listening to 'amens,' snickering laughter, and even a roar of approval from the people around me when asked if they agree with the AFA assertions that there “should be legal sanctions against homosexual behavior” and “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” I felt a sadness unlike any I have known before. A sadness for those who fall prey to such bigoted and hostile bombast, who carry the feelings these things stir into their homes and family relationships, and for the communities that suffer the sometimes-violent consequences of such mean-spirited divisiveness.

But as I looked at Gramley, unmoved next to Wagner, condoning the ugliness without a word of protest, I thought of all the courageous people who have attended OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign events over the past many months in far flung places, including there in Coudersport, who refuse to be silent anymore, who are working for change in their communities against great odds, and I was inspired all over again.

It is in their spirit that we will continue our campaign to speak out in the silence and to help build the movement for fairness and equality in small towns and rural communities across America.

I hope you'll join us! Learn more at

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It Gets Better's Dan Savage Meets Western Pennsylvania 'Traditional Family Values' Believer

A fantasy virtual conversation between It Gets Better Project founder Dan Savage and a "traditional family values" adherent in a small western Pennsylvania town. Meribeth unfortunately ended up on the cutting-room floor in the OUT IN THE SILENCE editing room, but here she gets to have her say. For more, see

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fox News: Vibrant Gay Communities In Every Small Town And The Truth About Gay-Haters and Conservative Moralists

from The Bilerico Project:

Even FOX News is starting to make fun of Peter LaBarbera, the head of "Americans for Truth About Homosexuality" (the meetings are shirtless!). Commonly known as Porno Pete in the LGBT blogosphere, he loves to attend leather conferences and gay baths to do "research."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Traditional Family Values" - Pastor Who Backed Prop 8 Held On Multiple Child Molestation Charges

Pastor Tom Daniels of Rio Linda, California is being held on $6M bail after being charged with multiple felony counts of sexual assault on a child. Lavender Newswire reports that Daniels twice made donations to Protect Marriage, the backers of Proposition 8.