Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gay-Marriage Foes Sought to Split Gays and Blacks

The True Values of Self-Described "Family Values" Advocates!

from the Associated Press:

The leading national organization opposing same-sex marriage has sought to split the Democratic Party base by pitting African-Americans and Hispanics against gay-rights groups, according to confidential strategy memos made public by court officials in Maine.

"The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies," says one of the memos. It also suggests "interrupting" the process of cultural assimilation for Hispanics in hopes of curtailing support for same-sex marriage.

The documents, dating from 2009, were written by the National Organization for Marriage and had been kept from the public until Monday, when they were unsealed by court officials in Maine.

They were part of a two-pronged legal challenge of Maine's financial disclosure laws. Still unresolved is whether the NOM will have to release the names of donors to its successful 2009 campaign to ban same-sex marriage in Maine.

The Human Rights Campaign, a major gay-rights organization, first circulated the documents Monday night, and its president, Joe Solmonese, assailed the strategies that they detailed.

"With the veil lifted, Americans everywhere can now see the ugly politics that the National Organization for Marriage traffics in every day," Solmonese said. "While loving gay and lesbian couples seek to make lifelong commitments, NOM plays racial politics, tries to hide donors and makes up lies about people of faith."

Through the Human Rights Campaign, veteran civil rights leader Julian Bond also condemned the NOM strategy.

"NOM's underhanded attempts to divide will not succeed if Black Americans remember their own history of discrimination," said the statement from Bond, a former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "Pitting bigotry's victims against other victims is reprehensible; the defenders of justice must stand together."

NOM's president, Brian Brown, was unapologetic, issuing a brief statement hailing his organization's collaboration with other black and Hispanic leaders, including Bishop Harry Jackson, a Maryland church pastor, and New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.
"Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right, but the voices of these and many other leaders have provided powerful witness that this claim is patently false," Brown said.

"Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine," Brown added. "We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage."

The NOM documents depicted Democratic Party leaders as "increasingly inclined to privilege the concerns of gay rights groups over the values of African-Americans."

"Find, equip, energize and connect African-American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots," one memo said.

The memos stressed the pivotal political role of Latinos as a swing constituency.

"Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values?" one NOM memo asked. "We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity ... a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation."

The NOM strategy also called for portraying President Barack Obama as a "social radical" and seeking to cast same-sex marriage in a negative light by linking it to other issues, such as pornography and sexualizing of children.

Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, a national advocacy group supporting same-sex marriage, said the memos suggest the NOM "will stop at nothing to push its agenda, pitting American against American, minority against minority, family members against family members."

"These smoking-gun documents show how NOM has sought, in the most cynical ways imaginable, to bait the gay community in hopes of provoking a hurt response that would further divide," he said.

The NOM is playing an active role this year as battles over same-sex marriage unfold in several states.
In Maryland and Washington, the organization and its allies are gathering signatures to place measures on the Nov. 6 ballot that would overturn recently passed same-sex marriage laws.

In Maine, it will be seeking defeat of a measure already placed on the November ballot that would legalize same-sex marriage. In North Carolina and Minnesota, the NOM is supporting ballot measures that would amend the state constitutions to define marriage as only between a man and woman.

The unsealed court documents illustrated that the NOM sometimes falls short of its goals. The memos said a priority for 2010 was to repeal gay-marriage laws in New Hampshire, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. But same-sex marriage remains in effect in those three jurisdictions along with Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New York.

The memos contained extensive details about NOM's finances, but they do not identify individual donors, including three who had given more than $1 million apiece as of late 2009.

In Maine, the group leading the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage — Mainers United for Marriage — announced the appointment of Matt McTighe as campaign manager. He had been the state public education director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a Boston-based gay-rights law firm.

McTighe said he was reviewing the NOM documents Tuesday, but was troubled by what he saw on first take.

"We try to focus on telling the positive stories on why marriage matters to all committed loving couples in Maine, and here they are trying to use fear and scare tactics to turn people off," he said.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Can Religion Justify Bullying Children?

A lecture by Sean Faircloth, author of the book "Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All & What We Can Do About It"

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Horrors of War and Anti-Gay Bigotry

Amidst the incomprehensibly tragic horrors of war, such as the apparently unprovoked slaughter of more than a dozen Afghan civilians Sunday by a lone American soldier, what is the viciously anti-gay Venango County-based American Family Association of Pennsylvania focused on?

Why, preventing justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the American military, of course!

In fact, the AFA of PA's illustrious President, Diane Gramley (pictured right), says in a press release that repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, the law banning openly LGBT people from military service, was a "
Military Death Sentence."

So much for priorities, morality and family values!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Diane Gramley's Failed Coup Attempt Against the Venango County GOP

Submitted by Dave Martin (3/9/12):

The Venango County Republican Party has been dominated for generations by the Breene family. Martha Breene (right) is presently GOP party chair and her husband, Charlie, is the party committee person. Thus it's been for many, many years. Suddenly this year, it seems that Diane Gramley (below, President of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania) has taken an interest in GOP party politics.

Diane and a few of her followers examined the signatures on the ballot petition forms for GOP committee positions and found minor errors on 10 of them including the petition form of Martha Breene. Diane filed a complaint with the board of elections which ruled in Diane's favor and removed the names of the 10 individuals from the ballot including Martha's name.

Martha and the other GOP committee candidates immediately hired a lawyer, Mike Hadley, and sued to have their names restored to the ballot. The court hearing on Tuesday was noisy and choatic with frequent outbursts not only from those directly involved but from spectators as well.

One interesting bit of testimony was that Diane wished to replace the GOP chair, Martha Breene, and the 9 committee people with members of the local Tea Party headed by Jane Richey, an old ally of Diane's and owner of WAWN which is the local Christian Broadcasting radio affiliate. (The dynamically bumbling duo is pictured here, Richey on left, Gramley on right.)

I just spoke to a friend in the courthouse who tells me that Judge White handed down his decision today in favor of Martha Breene and the other committee people allowing them additional time to correct the errors on their petition forms which will restore their names to the ballot.

Hence, Diane loses not only in her attempted coup but she loses big time in her standing with the "establishment" in Venango County.

I'm no fan of the Breene's or the local GOP party but challenging them on technical errors on a petition form in a courthouse controlled by Republicans before an ardent Republican judge is not the smartest move.

If Diane had any credibility locally previously, she lost it with this whacky move.

I very much doubt that she or her followers will have any credibility in giving testimony before councils in Oil City and Franklin and she has damaged the reputations of the election board that did her bidding as well although the chair, Tim Brooks, is also a Tea Party member.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Minnesota School District Agrees to Protect Students from Anti-Gay Bullying in Settlement with SPLC

Here is an example that the Franklin Area School District, and other Venango County schools, should follow:

from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Minnesota’s largest school district has agreed to adopt a wide-ranging plan to protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment, in a settlement that will resolve an SPLC lawsuit.

A consent decree was approved by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board in suburban Minnesota tonight.

“This historic agreement marks a fresh start for the Anoka-Hennepin School District,” said SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe. “Unfortunately, this district had become notorious for anti-LGBT hostility and discrimination. This consent decree sets the stage for Anoka-Hennepin to become a model for other school districts to follow.”

The agreement also will resolve a separate complaint brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which today released the findings of an investigation conducted jointly with the U.S. Department of Education.

The SPLC sued the Anoka-Hennepin district in July on behalf of five students who faced a constant torrent of anti-gay slurs due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Students were also physically attacked – in some cases choked, shoved, urinated on and even stabbed with a pencil.

The lawsuit charged that the school district’s “gag” policy – which hampered the efforts of teachers to address the harassment – stigmatized gay and lesbian students and helped perpetuate the abuse. In several cases, officials told the harassed students to “lay low” or “try to stay out of people’s way.”

“No one should have to go through the kind of harassment that I did,” said Dylon Frei, one of the plaintiffs in the SPLC case. “I am happy this agreement includes real changes that will make our schools safer and more welcoming for other kids.”

The district’s 18-year-old gag policy was repealed in February after the SPLC and other groups urged district officials to end it. It has been replaced with a policy that requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, including LGBT students.

The decree, which still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen, outlines specific steps the district must take to address and prevent anti-LGBT harassment, including fully investigating reports of harassment and instituting training that specifically addresses anti-LGBT bias. The departments of Justice and Education will monitor the district’s compliance for five years.

Other steps required by the decree include:

- The district will hire a harassment prevention official to lead efforts to eliminate and prevent future instances of harassment in the district. It also will hire a mental health consultant to assess how the district helps harassed students. The district’s annual anti-bullying survey will be strengthened.

- The district’s policies and practices regarding harassment will be reviewed by the Great Lakes Equity Center, which will recommend revisions. The district will work with the center to identify harassment “hot spots” in its schools, on school buses and in other locations. The center is a federally funded organization that helps public schools promote equal educational opportunities.

- The district will work with its harassment prevention official and the equity center to provide anti-harassment training to students and district employees who interact with students.

- The district will ensure that a counselor or other qualified mental health professional is available during school hours for students. It will develop procedures for parental notification that are sensitive to a student’s right of privacy regarding his or her real or perceived orientation or gender identity.

- The district will improve a recently formed harassment prevent task force which will advise the district on how to promote a positive educational climate.

Under the decree, six students who brought lawsuits against the district will receive a total of $270,000 in damages.

The investigation by the departments of Justice and Education found that the school district violated Title IX and Title IV of the Education Code by permitting a hostile environment against students on the basis of sex, including the failure to conform to sex stereotypes. Federal investigators reviewed more than 7,000 district documents and included interviews with more than 60 individuals, including current and former students, parents, district staff, teachers and administrators.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, served as co-counsel on the SPLC’s case. NCLR, with local counsel Culberth & Lienemann, LLP, brought a lawsuit on behalf of a sixth student plaintiff.