Monday, January 30, 2012

A Lesson for Venango County from Tennessee

Tennessee Restaurant Owner Kicks Out Anti-Gay Senator
Over Offensive Anti-Gay Comments


Last week, Republican Tennessee state senator Stacey Campfield (right) told LGBT journalist Michelangelo Signorile that it was “virtually impossible” to get HIV/AIDS through heterosexual sex, and that only gay people get the disease. He also claimed that HIV began after a gay man had sex with a monkey. Of course, we all know that Campfield’s claims are wrong because heterosexuals contract HIV as well. Take former NBA legend Magic Johnson for instance. He’s a heterosexual male who contracted the disease because he had sexual intercourse with multiple women over the course of his career. Countless other heterosexual men and women have contracted HIV over the decades. This is part of the alternative knowledge system that David Frum was referring to in December of last year. In it, homosexuality is the root cause of AIDS and should be demonized. Conservatives get away with such blatant lies because they live in a bubble safe from criticism. This time, though, Campfield’s outrageous comments have landed him in hot water and one local restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee is teaching him a lesson.

The owner of Bistro at the Bijou booted Senator Campfield out of the establishment because of his false and inflammatory comments about the LGBT community and HIV/AIDS as well as his failed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, which has over 1300 likes in 18 hours, reads;

“I hope that Stacy Campfield now knows what if feels like to be unfairly discriminated against.”

Martha Boggs, the owner of the bistro, told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “He’s gone from being stupid to dangerous. It’s just my way of standing up to a bully.”

There is a Facebook campaign to oust Campfield from office and you can also sign this petition.

Republican lawmakers have taken aim at the LGBT community more frequently in recent years, and many anti-gay advocates have added their own hateful rhetoric and false claims. One activist, Linda Harvey, told her listeners on her radio broadcast that there isn’t any proof that LGBT people exist , and Right Wing pastor Mark Driscoll said that masturbation is a form of homosexuality. Undoubtedly, more hateful rhetoric will occur as same-sex becomes legal in more states and those afraid of equality and change become increasingly frantic that history is passing them by.

A Sign From Above

Religious Conservatives Struggle to Influence GOP Nomination

from McClatchy Newspapers on, Jan. 28, 2012:

Austin, Texas -- In the beginning, religious conservatives wanted a Republican presidential victor who'd be the answer to their prayers.

It hasn't turned out that way.

After 30 years of burgeoning political clout, the Christian right has struggled to find its place in an election season in which the economy has replaced the culture war.

Its backers can't agree on a GOP nominee, its issues aren't defining the debate and its national leaders seem to have lost influence over the flock.

How that plays out will affect fortunes not only of Republicans in their fight against President Barack Obama this fall but also may swing the outcome of many congressional races.

And their votes, which have been split among the GOP field, will be up for grabs again Tuesday in the Florida primary.

William Martin, a Rice University professor and author of a book about the rise of the religious right, "With God On Their Side," said evangelicals unhappy with their choices have to decide:

Will they remain political purists (and stay home in November if they don't like the nominee) or pursue a pragmatic course with a flawed candidate who can win the White House?

Martin said that in the end, he expects pragmatism to prevail.

"For Republicans in general and Christian conservatives who make up a large segment of Republicans, so many things have been subsumed under one overwhelming desire _ defeat Barack Obama."

Historically, opposition to abortion and gay marriage are top issues for religious motivated voters.

This year, some have sought to redefine the moral agenda to include economic issues, including taxes, debt and government spending. In political terms, the economy has become the new morality.

Rick Santorum, who won Iowa with considerable backing from Christian conservatives, has tried to link moral issues with economic success, citing studies that show children raised by married parents are less likely to live in poverty than kids in single-parent homes.

Before he dropped out of the presidential race last month, Rick Perry bridged religious faith and economic well-being at a prayer rally in South Carolina. That was modeled after his seven-hour revival in August in Houston that effectively kicked off the Texas governor's run for the White House.

"Father, give us hope in this country that through you, this country can prosper, that it can be healed," Perry prayed before several thousand at an arena in Greenville, S.C.

Among those supporting Perry in his presidential bid was Maggie Wright of Burleson, Texas, who traveled to South Carolina as a volunteer and attended the Greenville rally, where she touted Perry's credentials.

"He doesn't mind getting up publicly and reading out of that Bible," she said while a choir sang on stage in advance of Perry's appearance. "He knows that it's up to God whether our nation succeeds or not."

Wright nodded when Nancy Sabet, a Perry volunteer from Massachusetts, added something else to the religious agenda. "And he'll get America back working again," she said.

But if Perry's record made him a favorite among evangelicals, doubts about his electability after poor debate performances doomed his prospects.

"A lot of people expressed a lot of excitement when Governor Perry first got in the race," said University of Akron professor John Green, an expert on politics and religion. "They felt he fit their values very well. But then people would tell me, 'That was until he opened his mouth.'"

Likewise, if doubts about Newt Gingrich's marital infidelities and Mitt Romney's Mormonism have raised red flags among some evangelicals, their potential to defeat Obama has gained them support.

Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, a Christian school in Massachusetts, said the religious right has matured over the last 30 years and is more likely to back a slightly imperfect candidate with winning potential when it serves its interest.

"Evangelicals in 1980 were hoping that with the election of Ronald Reagan, they'd be able to enact a political agenda that would fit their framework. It simply did not happen," he said.

They've recognized, particularly on the domestic policy front, that movement is slow.

"So the compromise has been they simply want to have a seat at the table. They want to feel like they have some of their people who are in senior policy positions so that some of their agenda items get enforced," Lindsay said.

Settling on the best contender to topple Obama has not been easy among evangelicals, who've been divided among Santorum, Romney and Gingrich.

Tensions were evident this month at a meeting of Christian leaders on a ranch near Brenham, Texas, aimed at consolidating around a conservative alternative to Romney.

A majority voted to make Santorum the consensus candidate, but Gingrich backers left the meeting unwilling to fall in line and angry over comments by influential Christian leader James Dobson, who warned against having "a woman who was a man's mistress for eight years" as first lady should Gingrich win.

Last week, in a conference call to social conservatives, Dobson redoubled his support for Santorum. He said that if candidates "don't get around to talking about the Lord, about biblical principles and are determined to defend those things in the culture, then we ought to find another candidate."

Eventually, Republicans will pick a nominee, and several social conservative leaders said in interviews that they expect evangelicals will turn out and vote for him.

"Don't underestimate Barack Obama's unique ability to unite people around his opponent," said Richard Land, who heads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

If it's Romney, whose Mormonism and mixed record on abortion issue might be a problem for some, the prospect of winning in November will cover a multitude of sins, Land said.

"As long as he's beating Obama, that salves a lot of their pain," he said.

Evangelicals have split their support among the Republican presidential candidates in the early contests.

In Florida, which has its primary Tuesday, evangelicals are expected to make up as much as a third of the turnout.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bigotry Isn't Rational

Residents of Pennsylvania have long known that bigotry isn't rational simply by being witness to, or targets of, the extremism of those who use religion and the bible as a weapon or who follow hate groups like the Venango County-based American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

Genetic or Not, Gay Won’t Go Away

by Frank Bruni for The New York Times:

Born this way.

That has long been one of the rallying cries of a movement, and sometimes the gist of its argument. Across decades of widespread ostracism, followed by years of patchwork acceptance and, most recently, moments of heady triumph, gay people invoked that phrase to explain why homophobia was unwarranted and discrimination senseless.

Lady Gaga even spun an anthem from it.

But is it the right mantra to cling to? The best tack to take?

Not for the actress Cynthia Nixon, 45, whose comments in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday raised those very questions.

For 15 years, until 2003, she was in a relationship with a man. They had two children together. She then formed a new family with a woman, to whom she’s engaged. And she told The Times’s Alex Witchel that homosexuality for her “is a choice.”

“For many people it’s not,” she conceded, but added that they “don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

They do get to fume, though. Last week some did. They complained that she represented a minority of those in same-sex relationships and that she had furthermore handed a cudgel to our opponents, who might now cite her professed malleability as they make their case that incentives to change, not equal rights, are what we need.

But while her critics have good reason to worry about how her words will be construed and used, they have no right to demand the kind of silence and conformity from Nixon that gay people have justly rebelled against. She’s entitled to her own truth and manner of expressing it.

Besides which, there are problems with some gay advocates’ insistence that homosexuality be discussed and regarded as something ingrained at the first breath.

By hinging a whole movement on a conclusion that hasn’t been — and perhaps won’t be — scientifically pinpointed and proved beyond all doubt, they hitch it to a moving target. The exact dynamics through which someone winds up gay are “still an open question,” said Clinton Anderson, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office of the American Psychological Association. “There is substantial evidence of various connections between genes, brain, hormones and sexual identity,” he said. “But those do not amount to a simple picture that A leads to B.”

One landmark study looked at gay men’s brothers and found that 52 percent of identical twin brothers were also gay, in contrast with only 22 percent of nonidentical twin brothers and 11 percent of adoptive, genetically unrelated brothers. Heredity more than environment seemed to be calling the shots.

Other research has posited or identified common anatomical and chromosomal traits among gay men or lesbians, and there’s discussion of a gay gene or, rather, set of genes in the mix. The push to isolate it is entwined with the belief that establishing that sexual orientation is like skin color — an immutable matter of biology — will make homophobia as inexcusable as racism and winnow the ranks of haters.

But bigotry isn’t rational. Finding a determinative biological quirk, deviation or marker could prompt religious extremists who now want gays in reparative psychotherapy to focus on medical interventions instead. And a person’s absence of agency over his or her concentration of melanin has hardly ended all discrimination against blacks.

What’s more, the born-this-way approach carries an unintended implication that the behavior of gays and lesbians needs biological grounding to evade condemnation. Why should it?

Our laws safeguard religious freedom, and that’s not because there’s a Presbyterian, Buddhist or Mormon gene. There’s only a tradition and theology that you elect or decline to follow. But this country has deemed worshiping in a way that feels consonant with who you are to be essential to a person’s humanity. So it’s protected.

Our laws also safeguard the right to bear arms: not exactly a biological imperative.

Among adults, the right to love whom you’re moved to love — and to express it through sex and maybe, yes, marriage — is surely as vital to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a Glock. And it’s a lot less likely to cause injury, if that’s a deciding factor: how a person’s actions affect the community around him or her.

I USE the words “moved to love” in an effort to define the significant, important territory between “born this way” and choice. That solid ground covers “built this way,” “oriented this way,” and “evolved this way”; it incorporates the possibility of a potent biological predisposition mingling with other factors beyond anyone’s ready control; and it probably applies to Nixon herself. In a Daily Beast interview after the Times article appeared, she clarified that she has experienced an unforced, undeniable attraction to individuals of both sexes. In other words, she’s bisexual, not whimsical. She just happens not to like that term, she said.

In any case, concentrating on how she ended up like that misses the point.

“Most people’s sexual attractions are pretty much fixed” once they take root, said Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who has written extensively about homosexuality. In light of both that and the unanswered questions about what fixes them, there’s more wisdom and less harm in accepting and respecting homosexuality than not.

We don’t need to be born this way to refute the ludicrous assertion that homosexuality poses some special threat to the stability of the American family. We need only note that heterosexuality — as practiced by the likes of Newt Gingrich and John Edwards, for example — isn’t any lucky charm, and yet no one’s trying to heal the straights.

We don’t need to be born this way to call out Chris Christie, currently trying to avoid responsibility for a decision about same-sex marriage in New Jersey, for being a political wimp. Andrew Cuomo showed courage and foresight in fighting successfully for such legislation in New York. Christie, who fancies himself a dauntless brawler, should do the same in the state next door.

I honestly have no idea if I was born this way. My memory doesn’t stretch to the crib.

But I know that from the moment I felt romantic stirrings, it was Timmy, not Tammy, who could have me walking on air or wallowing in torch songs and tubs of ice cream. These feelings gelled early, and my considerable fear of society’s censure was no match for them.

I know that being in a same-sex relationship feels as central and natural to me as my loyalty to my father, my pride in my siblings’ accomplishments and my protectiveness of their children — all emotions that I didn’t exit the womb with but will not soon shake.

And I know that I’m a saner, kinder person this way than trapped in a contrivance or a lie. Surely that’s not just to my advantage but to society’s, too.

Pennsylvania, Leading The Way Backwards

Pennsylvania House Unanimously Violates First Amendment Of Constitution
By Passing Bible Praising Resolution

by Stephen Foster, Jr. for

You can’t make this stuff up, folks. In a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause in the United States Constitution, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring 2012 ‘The Year of The Bible,’ and praised the book as the greatest book of the year even though there are still 11 months left until 2013. The resolution declares that the Bible played a major role in the Constitution and the founding of America, even though there is no mention of the Bible, God, Jesus, or Christianity in the Constitution. The resolution goes on to cite the many Presidents who supposedly ‘paid tribute to the influence of the Bible in our country’s development,’ and declares that Americans ‘need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.’ Here’s the resolution in full:


Declaring 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania.

WHEREAS, The Bible, the word of God, has made a unique
contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and
blessed nation and people; and

WHEREAS, Deeply held religious convictions springing from the
holy scriptures led to the early settlement of our country; and

WHEREAS, Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil
government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, Many of our great national leaders, among them
President Washington, President Jackson, President Lincoln,
President Wilson and President Reagan, paid tribute to the
influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as
exemplified by the words of President Jackson that the Bible is
“the rock on which our Republic rests”; and

WHEREAS, The history of our country clearly illustrates the
value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the scriptures in
the lives of individuals, families and societies; and

WHEREAS, This nation now faces great challenges that will
test it as it has never been tested before; and

WHEREAS, Renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through
holy scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people;
therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives declare 2012 as
the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania in recognition of both
the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and
nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of
the holy scriptures.

I’m not surprised that Democrats helped pass this. If they hadn’t, Republicans would be accusing them of being “secular atheist jihadists” or something along those lines. The Bible didn’t actually influence the Constitution. That’s the kind of revisionist history that Republicans and the Christian Right have been shoveling for decades. They’ve even pushed totally made up quotes that they attributed to the Founders as proof of their claims. The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they wrote the Constitution. They gave ALL religions the freedom to exist and flourish and they forbade the government from putting any one religion over another. If the Founding Fathers wanted Christianity to be the national religion, they would have declared it. How can the Christian Right say that the Founders intended America to be a Christian nation when they didn’t mention anything to do with Christianity in the Constitution and they explicitly forbade the government from declaring a national religion? The fact is, the Founding Fathers weren’t impressed with Christianity and knew that religion is a divider. To the Founders, all religions were equal but if one were to influence the government it would obliterate the freedom and rights we enjoy today. And if you still believe that the Founders intended America to be a Christian nation, you should read these real quotes.

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
~ Thomas Jefferson in an 1814 letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper.

“The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.”- George Washington, as stated in the signed Treaty of Tripoli in 1797.

“In no instance have the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”
~James Madison

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
~James Madison

“I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”
~John Adams

Even Pennsylvanian sage Benjamin Franklin didn’t think religion was useful in government:

“A Firehouse is more useful than a church.”
~Benjamin Franklin

Franklin even noted that religions that seek help from civil power are bad religions, which happens to describe the Christian religion today. The Christian Right is so desperate to increase membership, that it seeks to force Christianity upon the American people by government decree.

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
~Benjamin Franklin

Does it really sound like these five men loved Christianity and wanted it to have influence in our nation’s laws and government? They sure have a funny way of showing it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sent By The Gods - True Family Values

A Native Hawaiian Recalls Queer Life Before Westernization

from I'm From Driftwood in The Huffington Post:

NovaLei was born and raised in Hawaii and knows from old stories what being queer was like back when Hawaii was still an independent country: "The LGBT person, in ancient times, was actually revered, and thought to be blessed and sent by the gods... There was a place for them in our society." NovaLei felt that he was gay his entire life, and he was very accepted and loved by his family. He was thought to be special. For those who were born and raised in traditional Hawaiian culture, these views are still strong.

Unfortunately, as Western culture encroached on Hawaii's native culture, things started to change, and queer people were viewed differently. NovaLei recalls, "I remember going to school one day and getting beaten up and called a sissy, and a queer. At the time, I was staying with my grandfather. I remember coming home and saying I wanted to kill myself." Needless to say, his grandfather was concerned, asking why he was so upset. NovaLei explained that he didn't want to go back to school, that he wanted to kill everyone there and himself, because no one liked him, simply because he was gay. His grandfather sat there in silence for a while, and NovaLei finally asked if he was going to respond. He did when prompted, imparting wisdom upon NovaLei that would change his life: "If you never remember anything I ever tell you, I want you to remember this: that because of who you are, there will be enough people in your lifetime to love you for exactly who you are, that you'll never have to worry about the ones who don't."

From then on, whenever NovaLei faced hard situations with people criticizing him, he would remember his grandfather's words: "I would see him looking at me, and I would realize, 'OK, you may not like me, but...,' I would then start thinking, in my mind, of all the people that do."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Which Side Are You On Venango County?

This is an important question for leaders in Venango County, home base for the most notorious hate group in the state: the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney Contributes to 'Pray Away the Gay' Groups

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

This article presents some very important ideas for the leadership in Venango County, home-base for the Hate Group, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, to mull over as they struggle to move the region forward in challenging times.

by Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer for

There's no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. (Pictured: Diane Gramely, President of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.) Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

"Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood," he said.

Controversy Ahead

The findings combine three hot-button topics.

"They've pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics," said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. "When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it's bound to upset somebody."

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience.

"The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this," Nosek said, referring to the new study. "It's not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists."

Brains and Bias

Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured.

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.

Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as "Family life suffers if mum is working full-time," and "Schools should teach children to obey authority." Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as "I wouldn't mind working with people from other races." (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson's work can't speak to this "underground" racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.

"This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice," said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

A Study of Averages

Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren't implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

"There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals," Hodson said.

Nosek gave another example to illustrate the dangers of taking the findings too literally.

"We can say definitively men are taller than women on average," he said. "But you can't say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There's plenty of overlap."

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

"Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order," Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice."

In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link.

Simple Viewpoints

Hodson and Busseri's explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn't conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you'd have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren't possible.

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like "every kid is a genius in his or her own way," might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

"My speculation is that it's not as simple as their model presents it," Nosek said. "I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where 'People I don't know are threats' and 'The world is a dangerous place'. ... Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful."

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group's point of view.

That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

"There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners," Hodson said. "Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups," rather than thoughts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay

by Dan Pearce on Single Dad Laughing:

Hate Across The State

Venango County-based Hate Group, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, and other anti-LGBT bigots are spreading lies and trying to stir their ugly brand trying to stir homophobic bullying and discrimination at a York, Pa. high school. But the local newspaper is having none of it.

Here's what civic leadership looks like in the face of hate:

York Dispatch Editorial

Carroll Tignall could be the poster boy for Dallastown Area High School's Gay-Straight Alliance club.

The former school board member epitomizes the need for such groups, which promote diversity and acceptance of gay and lesbian teens.

Tignall apparently doesn't approve of homosexuality, and he's up in arms about the club's screening tonight -- at the high school -- of "Out in the Silence," a documentary dealing with the bullying of a gay student.

It's a sign, Tignall believes, the district is "covertly" promoting homosexuality -- and he's been trying to rally other concerned residents to attend the screening.

We're not sure why, if Tignall disapproves so strongly of gays and lesbians, he would want to attend a Gay-Straight Alliance club. (There are probably going to be some gay people there, after all.)

It seems a better approach would be to attend a school board meeting and confront the members and administration about their sinister plot to create homosexuals.

Tignall and whoever else he manages to enlist might think their attendance at the screening is a sign of protest against their imagined threat.

Of course, the students in the club might not see it that way.

They might very reasonably take it as harassment and intimidation.

Unfortunately, those are things many gay and lesbian students are all too familiar with.

According to the It Gets Better Project, nine out of 10 gay, lesbian and transgender students have experienced harassment at school, and they're bullied two to three times as much as straight kids. A third of them have attempted suicide, and they're four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

"Out in the Silence" focuses on a gay student from Oil City, Pa., who is being tormented at school because of his homosexuality. His mother reaches out to a local filmmaker, who recently put an ad in the local newspaper announcing his marriage to another man, to try to help her son.

"The aim of 'Out in the Silence' is to expand public awareness about the difficulties that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people face in rural and small town America and to promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground," according to the film's website.

Now there's a thought.

Tignall ought to stay home tonight and think of a better way of expressing his opinion.

But if he's dead set on attending the club's screening, we hope he takes a seat and pays attention.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why 'Born This Way' Doesn't Matter

by Tracy Baim for The Huffington Post:

Cynthia Nixon is in hot water with some gays for comments she made to The New York Times about whether she "chose" to be gay, or was "born that way." Here is an excerpt of what the Sex and the City star said:

"I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line "I've been straight and I've been gay, and gay is better." And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it's not, but for me it's a choice, and you don't get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it's a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn't matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not."

This nature-vs.-nurture argument has been debated in the LGBT movement for decades.

I can say that I am pretty much a Kinsey 6 when it comes to measurement scales. But having covered the LGBT community since 1984, and having identified as lesbian since my teen years in the late 1970s, I have always been intrigued by who gravitates to the nature argument, and who to nurture.

To generalize, it seems that more men go with "born this way," while more women see either a combination of nature and nurture, or all "choice." Add in the new field of epigenetics (which posits there are some triggers that do change our inherited genetic code, and which might be a reason sexuality actually could change over a person's lifetime) and we throw an even bigger wrench into the equation.

While some argue that women are more prone to the "nurture" side because of a more fluid sexuality, I don't think it is as simple as that. I think women, starting in the 1970s, took a very political approach to identity politics, and it was empowering to believe we control "our bodies, ourselves." For men, because of the pressure to be masculine and fit a male stereotype, it was easier to place the power elsewhere, with Mother Nature, not mother nurture.

The bottom line is that those who hate us, want to cure us, or even kill us don't really take the time to understand these nuances. Yes, if we were "born this way," that might make some people think it was an immutable characteristic and that therefore there might be no "cure." But honestly, this does not make anyone love us any more. In fact, there are many inherited characteristics upon which people discriminate (physical abilities, for example), or, at the very least, cause people to feel sorry -- or want to cure. That doesn't make these people think they are worthy of civil-rights protections. Ask African Americans if they think being "born that way" helped during the hundreds of years they fought for equal rights, or ask women about being born that way and how that helped get the right to vote or other rights.

And on the opposite side of this debate, religious choice is a protected category, and yet it is not something we are born with. The right-wing understands protecting religious "choice," just not gender or sexuality "choice." If they hate us, they hate us, and how we got this way just doesn't compute in their narrow minds.

Yes, there are some who advocate a "nature made us this way" argument to help us accept ourselves. But others still try to get gays to suppress their sexuality, or transgender people to suppress their gender identity, no matter how they got that way.

I empathize with people who believe that Cynthia Nixon may in fact simply be bisexual, and thus that being with women may represent making a "choice" between the two genders to which she is already attracted. But this identification of our sexuality is rather artificial. Likely, no one is genetically created to love a specific body part. There are probably many things we inherit and also experience once we are created (in the womb and outside of it) that flip our triggers -- it could be gender, but it could also be dozens of other things. Why do we like someone with dark hair, or someone who is short, or tall, or with blue eyes, or male, female, or transgender?

I am not "fluid" in my sexuality, and neither are most of my lesbian friends. But I do know some women and men who identify as gay or lesbian who have changed back and forth in their identity, and sometimes identify as bisexual. Why should it matter what we call ourselves? If the haters don't give a hoot about why or how we got this way, we should never try to limit who gets to fit into our community.

I also do not believe we should base our quest for civil rights on an argument that we "can't help ourselves" because of our genes. This is a very dangerous and slippery slope. There have been fictional books and films made about this topic: if there is a gay gene, should it be eliminated, or a child aborted, if it's found? Science fiction isn't usually very far removed from science.

I welcome the diversity of opinion between Cynthia Nixon and John Aravosis and others on this topic. But I don't think Nixon is wrong to "choose" how she defines her own life. If the right wing does use her words as a way to attack our community, I don't think it will be any more vile than what they already do. They try to "cure" us and deny our civil rights no matter what the basis of our true selves. We have a common enemy here, and it is not Cynthia Nixon, or those like her who come out as proud in their own unique identity.

Yes, some of us may be born this way, and if you believe this, more power to you. But I welcome anyone into our big tent, regardless of their genitals and the genitals they love.

Tracy Baim is publisher and executive editor, Windy City Media Group

Monday, January 23, 2012

Washington State Republicans Bravely Break With Party on Marriage Equality

Here's what life looks like outside the hate group bubble of the Venango County-based American Family Association of Pennsylvania:

from The Advocate:

Two Republican senators have made waves in Washington State after announcing their support for a marriage equality bill proposed earlier this month by Gov. Christine Gregoire. And one told The Advocate he's not afraid of the retaliation promised by antigay groups.

Washington is poised to become the seventh state in the country, plus the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriage. Introduced last week, the measure is expected to easily pass the House but needs one more vote in the state Senate. As of Thursday, 24 members of the 49-strong body have pledged their support, but the bill needs 25 votes to pass. Democrats control both chambers.

Five members of the Senate remain undecided — two Republicans and three Democrats — and there is a solid group of 20 “no” voters (including two Democrats).

Steve Litzow was the first Republican in the Senate to endorse Gregoire’s proposal and has since been praised for his decision to step outside party lines. The Seattle Times recently published an editorial praising Litzow’s support as “outstanding” and “commendable.”

“Litzow is a profile in courage, a freshman lawmaker willing to act on conviction,” the Times wrote.

The senator is much more modest. He said when the governor first brought up the idea of statewide marriage equality late last year, he knew it was the right thing to do.

“It’s really consistent with the fundamental tenets of individual freedom and personal responsibility,” he said in an interview with The Advocate. “It’s all about people getting to live the life they want to live without the government getting involved. It’s a core principle of the type of Republican I am.”

Less than a week later, fellow Republican senator Cheryl Pflug joined Litzow. Pflug couldn’t be reached for comment due to ongoing power outages across the state brought on by heavy snow and ice storms.

Litzow, up for reelection in November, said reaction so far has been “overwhelmingly positive,” and his endorsement wasn’t influenced by the end of his term. He shrugged off a recent pledge by the antigay National Organization for Marriage to put up $250,000 to challenge any Republican Washington senator who supports the bill.

“I am very comfortable with my position in the Senate, and I’m willing to take on any and all competitors,” Litzow said. “The games have started. ... I continue to say if they want to [play them], let’s go. Game on.”

Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said the views of Republicans like Litzow and Pflug are increasingly in line with those of mainstream voters statewide and nationally. The two represent what Silk calls “Evans Republicans” (named after Republican Dan Evans, a former U.S. senator and three-term governor of Washington), who are fiscally conservative but socially moderate — the type of Republicanism that’s been prevalent throughout the state for the past century.

Even though it looks as if marriage equality has a good chance of passing, Silk said his organization is preparing to defend the bill at the ballot box. Washington has a fairly low bar regarding the number of signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot — it’s slightly over 120,000 for this bill — but Silk is optimistic that even if it heads to the voters, it’ll still pass.

An October poll out of the University of Washington found 55% of voters were in favor of marriage equality. Washington also made history in 2009 when voters passed Referendum 71, which upheld a legislative action that made the state the first in the country to extend relationship rights and “everything but marriage” to LGBT couples.

“It’s a daunting challenge,” he said. “But with the kind of coalition we’re building with moderate Republicans, we can battle and win at the ballot box too.”

Thalia Zepatos, Freedom to Marry’s director of public engagement who’s based in Portland, Ore., said if the measure passes in Washington, the drive for marriage equality could easily spread south.

“That will be a huge message for Oregon — the states are so linked in that Northwest identity that it could come up and pass very quickly in the next couple of years,” she said. “These things don’t happen in a vacuum.”

Hearings for the bill start today, and Litzow hopes it will come to the Senate floor shortly after — but he does expect the vote will be close.

“I think it will pass by one or two votes,” he said. “It’ll probably be a 24-25 or a 23-26 vote.”

But Litzow said he’s firmly on the side of marriage equality and has been for years, no internal debates about it.

“Quite frankly, this has been a very easy decision,” he said.

Even on Fox News, Western Pa. Native Rick Santorum is an Offensive Moron

Don't Forget: Google Santorum

Do You Remember When?

Why the Christian Right Becomes More Extreme As America Grows More Tolerant

The political movement is “revenge”-based,
rather than rooted in any particular Christian philosophy.

by Richard Fricker for AlterNet:

The rigidity of Christian Right politics has been a complicating factor in governing the United States for the past several decades, stripping away flexibility needed to negotiate on issues as diverse as policies in the Middle East, abortion, health care and the federal budget.

Gone is the more practical approach of assessing government actions based on what might help the country the most – and compromising with those who have differing opinions. Everything, it seems, gets measured by some Christian fundamentalist yardstick of what’s right and wrong.

Adding to this religious style of politics has been a deep sense of victimhood among right-wing Evangelicals, as if Christians were some persecuted minority in the United States, threatened by all-powerful Muslims imposing Sharia law or secular humanists banning Christmas.

Repeated endlessly on right-wing talk radio, these paranoid messages have become real to millions of these religiously inspired voters. So, political adversaries must not only be bested, but crushed. After all, they represent strategies of the anti-Christ.

What happens next with this religious/political phenomenon could dramatically influence the future direction of the United States, a nation founded on principles of religious tolerance and respect for free debate and political diversity.

Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), sees hope in the shifting of some American Evangelicals away from hard-right anger in favor of life-affirming environmentalism. In an interview, Palmer notes that Evangelical environmentalists are the fasting growing part of American’s “green” movement.

However, Palmer accepts that American Evangelicals have been a key factor in creating today’s political acrimony. He describes the political movement as “revenge”-based, rather than rooted in any particular Christian philosophy.

Palmer, whose group interacts with religious leaders of all faiths on a global basis to develop environmental programs, is also a theologian and regular commentator on the BBC on ethics, religion and the environment.

The American Evangelical-political leaders, according to Palmer, are upset at not retaining the White House consistently after the presidency of Ronald Reagan. They see evil and the devil as the forces preventing them from creating a faith-based government.

At this point, the Evangelical Right wants the entire administrative structure of the secular state torn down in order to create a “New Jerusalem” and to hasten the Apocalypse.

To understand how this Christian Right movement evolved, Palmer said, one must look back at catastrophes that struck Christian Europe some eight centuries ago.

The Plague created disillusionment with the Church’s ability to protect the faithful. To counter those doubts, a school of thought emerged insisting that some other forces must be at work, with the devil and his agents doing battle with the Church, with goodness and with God.

This fear of the devil gave rise to witch trials and images of a cloven-hooved demons selecting victims and recruiting co-conspirators. It became common for populations to blame “evil” for virtually any failure of an endeavor, bad crops or disease. To eliminate these Satanic forces, the devil’s suspected agents were burned at the stake as witches.

After Europe lost its taste for witch burnings in favor of more scientific explanations, Evangelicals turned their religious passions toward converting heathens in distant lands, like China, India and Africa. The missionary movement came into full flower in the late 1800s.

But Evangelicals never entirely lost their obsession with the devil. In effect, Palmer explained, they found new devils among populations about whom they knew precious little.

“One of the reasons for the re-appearance of the devil or evil in those early missionary days came about through disappointment,” Palmer said. “The missionaries, when they went to China — China had more missionaries than the whole rest of the world put together — they found people really weren’t interested” in the Christian message.

“The dilemma facing the missionaries, primarily Protestants, … was that they were not terribly literate people. They were very much people who came out of working-class backgrounds who had had a dramatic conversion experience.

“That experience had given them an intense sense of the love of God and they felt ‘called’ to go to the mission field. Often they had never traveled more that thirty-five miles outside their home town, and now found themselves on a boat to China or to India. These were people who felt God had called them to leave everything and go to these strange countries.”

The missions were slow getting off the ground and the number of converts tiny. That was deeply contrary to the expectations of the missionaries who thought that the inhabitants of these dark lands would be profoundly grateful to receive the light of the gospel.

“And, that didn’t happen,” Palmer said. “It so didn’t happen on such a monumental scale that this raised huge questions. The missionaries were left with only three possible answers: that no one was interested,” which was unthinkable.

“The second one was that somehow they had failed,” Palmer said. “They were not able to communicate the gospel, and were failing Jesus. Quite a few of them had monumental nervous breakdowns. … The average life of a missionary in inland China in the second half of the Nineteenth Century was just two years.

“Many of them just fell apart and had to be shipped home and were basically wrecks thereafter, because they felt they personally had failed their commission.”

Or the missionaries could see the challenge in a way less disparaging of the Christian message or their own abilities.

“The third option was … the devil,” Palmer said. “They were not dealing with ordinary human beings who were not accepting the gospel. They were dealing with the devil. And, the devil in the form of anything you wanted, in the form of statues of other gods, Taoist, Hindu shrines or holy men who wandered the countryside, it didn’t really matter.

“These forces of evil were actually blocking the poor people who all wanted to convert but the devil was in the way.”

In Palmer’s analysis, a similar phenomenon has been occurring in America. With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Christian Right foresaw a national conversion, with Americans accepting the Bible in the way fundamentalist Christians interpreted its teachings. With America providing that light onto other nations, Christianity would be on a triumphant march.

However, that failed to happen. Despite right-wing gains in terms of tax policy and other benefits for the rich, the nation has continued its gradual evolution toward a more tolerant and a more secular society. For instance, polls show growing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage, two hot-button issues for Christian fundamentalists.

The American Evangelicals felt that after Reagan, they were entitled to power, Palmer said. That is why, they couldn’t understand the election of Bill Clinton. In the Evangelical mind, Clinton was an interloper to “their” White House.

The election of Barack Obama, America’s first black president, came as a particular shock to many white Evangelicals, especially because of his Muslim father and his Muslim name. This resistance to accepting Obama as a “legitimate” president was part of what fueled the hysteria over his supposedly forged birth certificate.

“Obama,” Palmer said, “left them bewildered,” thus the non-negotiating position taken by the right-wing Evangelicals on almost all of the administration efforts.

“I think what you are now witnessing, and it’s not among the majority, is a group of people that thought they were within grasp of taking power and making America once again a holy country, a holy city, the new Jerusalem,” Palmer said.

Their failure would be a rejection of God and must not be tolerated. However, Palmer said, in reality, “this was not the rejection of Christianity, but rather the rejection of this rather narrow kind of Christianity. I think it has driven them to ask why.”

So, the search for the devil continues, with Obama filling the bill and his allies – liberals and Democrats – serving the role that witches once did. There can be no thought of negotiating with these forces of “evil,” as far as the Christian Right is concerned.

“Any manifestation of contemporary society that they feel does not fit their vision of how the world should be is the work of the devil,” Palmer said.

Yet, Palmer believes the Christian Right does not see all obstacles as equally evil:

“I think you need to distinguish those who are active agents of the devil, such as Islam, over those whose misguided compassion is exploited by the devil. For example homosexuality itself is wrong, but homosexuals do not necessarily have to be wrong: they can be saved.”

Put in simple terms, Palmer said Evangelicals see, “A cosmic struggle for the world. The apocalypse is always next. History is irrelevant. … Time is temporal. All you need is the Bible. There is always a conspiracy against God and a weakening of the white family.”

Given the evil perceived by the extreme Evangelical Right, the only solution for the U.S. is to “strip the government to the bone and start over,” Palmer said.

However, Palmer thinks the hard-core Evangelical movement will eventually “burn itself out” because of its unwillingness to search for compromise solutions.

Palmer believes, the movement will “go to sand” as more and more Evangelicals focus their efforts on environmental issues. According to Palmer, “Quite a lot of people in that movement have disavowed themselves from the socio-evangelical political goals … and gone off and become active in the environmental movement.”

Palmer and fellow religious environmentalists will be meeting at the White House in December to discuss the religious approach to preserving the environment.

Palmer is a regular contributor to several BBC programs on ethics and religion, most specifically “In Our Time” hosted by Melvyn Bragg. He explained the evolution of the devil, evil and the missionary movement in a segment, “The Devil.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

AFA Spokesman Says AIDS Is Caused by Promiscuity and Party Drugs, Not HIV

Bryan Fischer, prominent national spokesman for the Venango County-based hate group, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, says AIDS Is Caused by Promiscuity and Party Drugs, Not HIV:

from HIVPlus Mag:

One of the leaders of the antigay movement said recently that HIV did not cause AIDS. Instead, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, claimed that high levels of sexual promiscuity and the use of alkyl nitrites, commonly known as poppers, are the cause of the virus.

In a video reposted by Right Wing Watch, the AFA's director of issue analysis for government and public policy gives unverified homosexual sex statistics involving large numbers of partners amongst gay men, as well as the use of poppers for stamina. However, according to, the effects of poppers typically last from one to two minutes. The inhalant relaxes muscles around blood vessels and causes the heart to speed up.

"Now, in the homosexual community, the average homosexual has hundreds of sexual partners over the course of a lifetime," Fischer said during his Focal Point radio show on the AFA Channel.

Fischer says during his show that this promiscuity, along with the use of alkyl nitrites "causes the human immune system to break down."

Watch the video below:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Religious Zealotry Deadly for Gays

Is this a preview of what extremists at hate groups like the Venango County-based American Family Association of Pennsylvania want to see in the U.S.?

Gay "Honor Killing" Movie Shakes Turkey Up

from Reuters:

ISTANBUL - On a hot summer's day in 2008, 26-year-old physics student Ahmet Yildiz was shot dead when he popped out from his Istanbul apartment to buy ice cream.

The main suspect in the killing, a fugitive still wanted by Turkish police, is Yildiz's father, who could not accept that his only son was in a homosexual relationship.

The case, widely believed to be Turkey's first gay "honor killing", has inspired a movie "Zenne", which opened on January 13 and explores gay sexual identity and prejudice in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey.

"We had the movie idea in mind right after our dear friend Ahmet was killed," said Caner Alper, writer and co-director of the movie. "His story needed to be told."

Yildiz was born into a wealthy religious family in the ancient city of Sanliurfa, in Turkey's impoverished and conservative southeast, but moved to cosmopolitan Istanbul during his university years, seeking more freedom as a gay man.

In Istanbul, Yildiz started a new life and made new friends; he also began a gay relationship and eventually moved in with his boyfriend, who witnessed Yildiz's murder from the window of their apartment on the Asian side of the city divided by the Bosphorus Strait.

In the movie, Yildiz's character is encouraged to come out of the closet by a male belly dancer, or zenne, and a German photographer who has moved to Istanbul after a personal crisis in Afghanistan, where he accidentally caused the death of several children during a photo shoot. Both are fictional characters.

In real life, Yildiz's coming out as a gay man was seen as an affront in his deeply patriarchal and tribal family, even though his parents adored him, a cousin, Ahmet Kaya, told the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.


Yildiz's father had urged him to return to their village and to see a doctor and an imam to "cure" him of his homosexuality and get married, but Yildiz refused.

"Ahmet loved his family more than anything else and he was tortured about disappointing them," Kaya was quoted as saying in the foundation's report.

After he was killed, the family did not claim Yildiz's body for a proper Islamic burial -- an indication of the deep shame the family felt and that they had ceased to consider him one of their own. He was buried instead in a "cemetery for the nameless."

"The one scene I wasn't able to distance myself from the character I played as an actor was when Ahmet apologized to his father for being gay on the phone after coming out," Erkan Avci, a young actor who played Yildiz, told Reuters.

"It's such a great tragedy, so cruel and inhumane that anybody has to apologize for who he is."
Avci drew parallels between Ahmet's situation and his own as a Kurd from Diyarbakir province in a country whose Kurdish minority has long complained of discrimination and inequality.

"It would have been immoral for me to turn down this role, as a man who had to apologize for years for being Kurdish," he said.

"Zenne", which won five awards at Turkey's most prestigious film festival, the Antalya Golden Orange, has received a huge amount of attention in mainstream media and is reported to be having reasonable success at the box office.

With a $1 million budget, including financial support from the Dutch embassy, it opened in a luxury movie theatre in one of Istanbul's most fashionable neighborhoods.

Gays are normally depicted in Turkish movies as colorful and exaggerated secondary characters who add a comic element - hardly the main character of a story.

"Zenne" tackles head-on such sensitive issues as gay society, prejudice and equal rights for Turkey's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

"'Zenne' is a very special film for us. It brings to the screen some of the important issues for the LGBT cause such as hate crimes, the complications for gay men to forego the mandatory military service and coming out," said Umut Guner, spokesman for the Ankara-based Kaos GL, a LGBT group.


The film has not been welcomed in conservative circles.

Islamist daily Vakit called it "homosexual propaganda" by a gay lobby bent on "legitimizing perversion through their so-called art."

Despite being the only suspect, Yildiz's father is still at large and is being tried in absentia.

Friends and activists, who have attended some of the hearings wearing masks bearing Yildiz's portrait, say the authorities lack the will to find the perpetrator.

Alper and Mehmet Binay, co-directors of the movie and together as a gay couple for 14 years, said they heard their friend Yildiz receive death threats from his family over the phone.

Yildiz filed an official complaint but failed to receive any protection, they said.

"Honor killings," or crimes carried out against mostly women and young girls seen to have tainted the family's name, are not uncommon in Turkey, particularly in poor and rural areas.

The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, has repeatedly urged Ankara to take a tougher stance against such crimes.


Turkey is often held as an example in the Middle East for marrying Islam and democracy, but Turkish gay activists say Ankara's human rights record is far from perfect.

One practice particularly abhorred by rights groups is the method by which gay men can be exempted from the required 16-month military service: they have to prove their homosexuality in medical tests and are compelled to provide photos of them having sex with other men.

In the movie, two characters undergoing one such examination are forced to wear make-up and dress in women's clothes, while doctors perform anal examinations.

According to Article 17 of the health regulations of the Turkish Armed Forces, homosexuality is considered a "psychosexual deviance."

"Turkey is going through a democratization process, and the army needs to enter this phase, too," said Binay.

"We don't live in a dream world and we don't expect it to happen all of a sudden in such a deep-seated institution, but at least they could stop the humiliating practices against gay men."

Turkish rights groups reported 24 killings of gay and transsexual individuals in the last two years. In most cases, courts reduced the sentences or the perpetrators were not found.

In a report last year, Amnesty International urged Ankara to draw up laws preventing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and to punish perpetrators of homophobic attacks.

The EU in a separate report also last year said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in Turkey "continued to suffer discrimination, intimidation and violent crimes".

LGBT activists say they get little sympathy from the AK Party, in power for a decade, which has its roots in political Islam and is known for its socially conservative stance.

Selma Aliye Kavaf, Turkey's former Women and Family Affairs Minister, made waves in 2010 when she said homosexuality was "a biological disorder, a disease that needs to be treated".

The current interior minister accused an outlawed armed organization with "engaging in every kind of immorality, including homosexuality".

Director Binay said he hoped the movie would help to change views both among government officials and the wider society, but believed that would not happen overnight.

"These movies will be made in Turkey as long as those from different identities refuse to learn to live together."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Letter of Love to Two Gay Dads

Adopted by Two Gay Dads After a Tumultuous Upbringing,
15-Year-Old Zac Shares a Letter of Love

by Patrick Wallace, founder of A Note To My Kid:

This past Christmas, Zac decided to read the following note to his dads, Arturo and Dave (lovingly referred to as "Dad" and "Dadio"), and his adopted brothers, Nick and Derrick, before they opened their presents.

Zac's note tells the story of his tumultuous upbringing, the anger and destructive behavior that resulted from the negative experiences he endured as a child, and, ultimately, the appreciation and love he has for his two dads, not to mention his adopted brothers, Kevin and Derrick.

With the permission of his fathers, we share Zac's heartfelt letter with you.

To my Family,

This is the first Christmas letter that I have ever written. I feel like since I am getting older, I should start writing a letter to the family or just talk about how I thought the family's year has gone until Christmas.

Ever since I ended up in this family people have told me that I was lucky. I have always known that I am lucky, especially when I have two dads that love me so much as Dad and Dadio. My family is very special to me. Even when we fight and even when we argue, I know they will always love me. Yes I am a lucky boy to have ended up here after spending so many years in foster care and not knowing if I would ever have a family.

I didn't grow with a dad. My birthmom had many boyfriends and she did a lot of drugs and partying. My sisters and me were taken from her on my eighth birthday. It was not fun to have police in my room on that day. It made me sad and this sadness I carried for many years and it got me in a lot of trouble. Then I landed in a great foster home after having lived in 12 different homes in three years. It was when I lived there that both my foster mom and social worker told me there was a family that wanted me. There was a catch: it was two dads!

Honestly, it didn't matter to me. I told them, "well, I never had a dad, now I get to have two!"

The start was tough and rough, and I put them through hell and back. I did awful and nasty things to them both. I stole their credit card and spent thousands of dollars online. When we went on my first vacation out of the country, I stole stuff from a souvenir stand - they found out and made me go back to the shop to return the souvenirs and made me pay the lady who owned the shop for the stolen property which then I had to give to a local kid. I didn't get it and thought they were being mean.

When I stole their American Express and maxed it buying stuff online I was only 12 years old. They were very upset, but Dad made sure I got the message of how serious this was. He took me to our local police station and reported me to the police captain for having stolen again. I was taken to an interrogation room and talked to by three police officers. All the time there I only wanted my Dad to come in and bring me home. I wanted to turn time back to before my stealing so I would not be there and I would not have hurt my parents so much. I learned my lesson and NEVER stole again!

But Dad and Dadio brought not just me into this family. They also added my brother Derrick. What I can say about Derrick is that he is really cool, he is funny, he is an awesome gay guy, he is a one of a kind guy, he is my bro. Next they added Nick. Nick can get on my nerves sometimes, but in the end he is pretty cool. He is a fast leaner when it comes to math and multiplying numbers. And with that said, I will go to the roots of the family.

Dad and Dadio. They are my parents and they are always here when I need them.

When it is dark they are the light,
When I feel frightened and chills,
They are the warmth I feel.
When I am hungry they cook my meals.

I did not put a lot of time into the poem, but in the poem you see my parents. The people that show me the light. The people that warm my heart when it gets dark. The people that cook my meals. If I could only ask for anything for Christmas I would only ask for my family.

By Zac

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Extensive Survey Looks at Bullying in Elementary Schools

from The Advocate:

The problem of antigay bullying is widespread even in the early years of elementary school, according to an extensive national survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and released today.

The survey asked more than 1,000 students and 1,000 teachers about what they see in schools. And while 26% of both groups reported hearing homophobic remarks such as "fag" or "lesbo," the percentage almost doubled for "that's so gay" or "you're so gay." Some 49% of teachers said they'd heard students frequently use "gay" as an insult.

Of the kids who are getting called names, 23% are boys who often act or look "too much like a girl" or vice versa, according to teachers.

GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard warns that bullying "can affect students' educational outcomes and personal development at every grade level." And 47% of teachers agreed that bullying in some form was a very or somewhat serious problem at their schools.

The problem can ultimately manifest in one of the worst possible ways — suicide. The parents of Jeffrey Fehr said their son had been bullied starting in the third grade, and they ultimately blamed a lifetime of taunts for his suicide on New Year's Day at the age of 18. Reports of young people killing themselves haven't stopped despite successful public awareness campaigns like It Gets Better or constant support from the Trevor Project's lifeline, which can be reached at (866) 488-7386.

But the everyday reality of being bullied get less attention.

Bullying victims were less likely to say they got good grades, with a rate of 57% versus 71% for the rest of students. They were less likely to say they get along with their parents. And just 33% of bullied students said they have plenty of friends versus 57% for others.

The bottom line is that bullied children have an unhappy life at school, with just 34% reporting being happy at school versus 69% for others. A third went so far as to say they are afraid to go to school because they don't feel safe.

Teachers are often criticized for letting harassment continue in classrooms and hallways. But 66% of teachers report intervening when they hear "gay" used as an insult, and more than 60% said they jump in when students are attacked for appearing too feminine or masculine.

More than 80% of teachers said they'd already been trained in combating bullying.

One of the real problems at play appears to be a lack of discussion about gay and lesbian people. A quarter of teachers said they would feel uncomfortable answering a student's question about LGBT people. Fewer than half said they'd be OK with it. The GLSEN report points out that the training they received probably omitted any discussion of gay and lesbian families, with just 23% of teachers saying they'd had any professional development instruction about LGBT families.

And while students said they had been taught not to bully and to respect those who are different, fewer than two in 10 students had heard anything about families with two moms or two dads.

The report concludes that when "students and families are respected and valued in elementary school" it would "lay the groundwork for safe and affirming middle and high schools."

Teachers (And Principals) Who Bully

"Out In The Silence" is a documentary film about the brutal bullying of a gay teen in Venango County's Franklin High School and the courageous battle the teen and his mother wage against anti-LGBT bigotry, harassment, violence, and discrimination in this conservative rural area.

While the film deals most directly with peer-to-peer bullying, the making of the film revealed that the root of this violence grows from the biggest and most cowardly bullies in the high school, Principal George Forster (pictured at far left) and his protectors on the Franklin Area School District Board.

These problems in Franklin and throughout Venango County will only end when a concerned public addresses them head-on and seeks true accountability and justice.

Addressing Teacher Bullies

by Teaching Tolerance:

When schools implement anti-bullying programs, the focus is usually centered on student-to-student bullying. However, students aren’t the only bullies in school. Teachers sometimes earn the label when they employ questionable disciplinary and management practices. Addressing Teacher Bullies is a presentation intended to help educators assess and reflect on their classroom management style and learn more about how inappropriate displays of teacher power can impact student learning.

Teaching Tolerance designed this presentation for teacher leaders, professional learning groups, staff development coordinators and other educators interested in engaging their colleagues around issues of teacher behavior and classroom climate.

Using the presentation in a small group setting allows participants to learn from each other through discussion and collaboration. The included audio narration assumes a small group environment. However, educators working independently may choose to turn off the audio component.

The presentation can be played directly from the Teaching Tolerance site or can be downloaded for use offline. Please be sure to move your mouse over the slide window to advance the animation and video.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Our Job Today" -- Bayard Rustin

“The job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.”

~~Bayard Rustin (1912-1987; civil rights activist and gay man who advised MLK Jr and organized the 1963 March on Washington)

As home base for the Hate Group, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, this powerful call from Rustin is the work of all those in Venango County who profess a concern for inclusion, fairness and equality for all, including LGBT people.