Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pennsylvania Hate Group Prevents Progress

As if the economic downturn of the past few years has not been challenging enough, Pennsylvania must now overcome being seen as a conservative, intolerant backwater unwelcoming of diversity, and unable to retain or attract talented residents, as much of the rest of the country forges ahead on issues of equality, dignity and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – (see New York for the most recent example).

This debacle is the result of a vicious, and public, anti-gay campaign being waged by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association, an extremist organization recently added to the Southern Poverty Law Center's designated “hate group” watch list.

While the Venango County-based organization has long spewed demonizing homophobic and transphobic propaganda, it has ratcheted up its attacks in recent months as several municipalities across the state have organized to do locally what the legislature has failed to accomplish for state residents: add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as protected groups in non-discrimination laws.

In the crosshairs of the American Family Association of PA's campaign-of-hate is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the agency charged with eliminating discrimination against the state's most vulnerable populations.

Until just a few weeks ago, the commission was headed by Stephen Glassman, a champion of civil rights for all Pennsylvanians who had been providing expert analysis and support to these important and successful municipal efforts to prevent discrimination.

While Glassman decided to step down from his role as commission chairman when the state's new conservative Republican governor, Tom Corbett, took office early this year, the American Family Association of PA intensified its attacks against the agency, perhaps with the aim of intimidating any and all state or elected officials who do not adhere to its archaic and exclusionary doctrine of religion-based bigotry and discrimination.

If Pennsylvania is to remain a keystone of the American ideals of liberty and justice for all, it is going to have to find ways to rise above the ugliness of the hate groups that continue to call it home.

You can help by letting Governor Corbett, and all of your elected representatives, know that you support full equality for all people in Pennsylvania, including the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

And, you can support the important civil rights work of groups like the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Equality Pennsylvania, Equality Partners of Western Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Diversity Network, and Keystone Progress, among others.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Born This Way

Here's a nice way to speak Out In The Silence and to counter the demonizing anti-gay propaganda of the Venango County-based Hate Group - American Family Association of Pennsylvania:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Drunken Sex at 85 mph -- Normal, Heterosexual,Traditional Family Values-Style

On the Beltway, A Claim of Drunken Sex at 85 mph

from the Washington Post:

Lawsuits after car crashes are beyond common. But in the Fairfax County courthouse, a lawsuit about a crash on the Beltway last year is dropping a few jaws as it makes the rounds and heads toward trial next week. Among the latest allegations in the lawsuit pending in Fairfax County Circuit Court:

Paragraph 10. “At the time of the collision, Defendant was going 85 miles per hour.”

Paragraph 12. “At the time of the collision, Defendant was having sex with a female.”

Paragraph13. “At the time of the collision, Defendant was driving admittedly drunk.”

Paragraph 14. “At the time of the accident, Defendant was partially or totally in the backseat of the car.”

Wait, WHA? 85 miles per hour? The backseat? And what happened to paragraph 11?

Records show the defendant, from Woodbridge, was convicted in Fairfax district court of drunken driving near Telegraph Road in May 2010. But now he denies he was driving. (What?) He was coming from his 21st birthday party in Baltimore, court records state. The woman involved has been dismissed from the case. There was someone ELSE in the car too, and HE denies driving as well.

The defendant’s lawyer, Frank Prior, said there was “no statement by anyone that they were driving on the Beltway having sex” and “no facts on it.” The plaintiff, a 28-year-old cab driver, is seeking $75,000 in damages and is represented by Douglas R. Stevens, who declined to comment beyond his court filings.

But Stevens sought punitive damages against the defendant and the friend, arguing in a pleading that “having sex at 85 miles per hour while drunk on a freeway is willful and wanton negligence.” A Fairfax judge threw out the punitive damages claim.

The case is set for trial next week.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hope Over Hate in Springfield, MA

"Out In The Silence" Screening to Shine Light on Springfield Hate Group

A special screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE, the acclaimed documentary about courageous Venango County residents fighting against homophobia and the forces behind the anti-gay bigotry and discrimination that continue to plague conservative small town America, is the Kick-Off event for a Week of Pride celebrations in Springfield, MA.

The free community event takes place on Wed., June 8 at 6:00 pm at Springfield Technical Community College's Scibelli Hall Theater. The screening will be followed by a dynamic town hall-style dialogue featuring members of the Springfield Pride Committee and filmmaker Joe Wilson.

While Wilson is thrilled to be a part of the Pride celebrations, the event has additional significance to him because Springfield is home to Abiding Truth Ministries, an anti-gay “hate group” much like the American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA), the organization at the heart of the challenges he documented in OUT IN THE SILENCE.

“Time and time again I've seen how these extremist groups stoke the fires of hatred and bigotry in small towns and rural communities, and I understand the importance of challenging them on their own turf,” said Wilson. “This event in Springfield will help to shine light on, and counter the dirty deeds of, one of the worst of the worst.”

Springfield's Abiding Truth Ministries was founded by Scott Lively, a notorious religious right activist known for his provocative anti-gay activities, including the discredited claim that “the Nazi Party was entirely controlled by militaristic homosexuals,” work on an Oregon ballot measure to have homosexuality codified as “abnormal behavior,” and travels in Eastern Europe and Uganda to assert that “homosexuality is a personality disorder and an evil institution” worthy of the death penalty. In 2008, Lively launched an effort to “re-Christianize” Springfield. Shortly thereafter, his Abiding Truth Ministries, like the American Family Association, was put on the Southern Poverty Law Center's official “hate group” watch list.

OUT IN THE SILENCE shows Wilson being drawn back to his small Pennsylvania hometown to share the story of a teenager tormented at school because he is gay, and the struggle the teen's mother goes through to get school authorities to do something about it. In the film, Wilson also strikes up an unexpected friendship with a conservative evangelical pastor, and follows the trials and tribulations of a local lesbian couple who can catalyze the rust-belt town’s economic revitalization if they find community acceptance. Intertwined with these heartfelt stories is Wilson's exploration of the role that the Venango County-based chapter of the American Family Association plays in stoking anti-gay bigotry in the town. At once wrenching, entertaining, and inspiring, the film ultimately shows the individual and community transformations that are possible when people, on all sides of these challenging issues, speak out and take the time to get to know one another.

OUT IN THE SILENCE was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary.

A press kit and more information about OUT IN THE SILENCE are available on the film's website: