Sunday, May 26, 2013

Heterosexual Family Values On Display in Coudersport, Pa.

from the Coudy News:

Our local community continues to mourn as further information surfaces surrounding the shooting death of Northern Potter music teacher Darlene Sitler at the First United Presbyterian Church in Coudersport on Sunday.

According to witness accounts released by State Police officials, 52-year-old Greg Eldred entered a rear door of the church behind the choir and shot his ex-wife, who was seated at the church organ. Eldred then allegedly exited the church and went to his truck, where one witness stated he placed a handgun on the hood.

Witnesses then say Eldred came back to the church’s side door along 4th Street and demanded to see Sitler. Eldred allegedly told church members, “I want to see her,” and “I want to finish this,” before re-entering the church.

Members of the church attempted to prevent Eldred from re-entering, but according to witnesses he threatened to shoot anyone who got in the way.

Greg Eldred. (Photo from Southern Tier Symphony)

Eldred is then accused of returning to the organ pit and shooting Sitler again, who was believed to still be alive at the time.

Members of the congregation were then able to wrestle the gun from Eldred, but not before another round went off into the pews.

Eldred was held by members of the congregation until Trooper Delp of the Coudesport-based State Police arrived and took the defendant into custody.

Police said they recovered (1) .40 caliber FNX handgun; (4) .40 caliber spent casings; and (3) discharged rounds – one of which was located in a wooden back of a pew in the rear of the church. Another round was found on a pillow next to the victim’s head.

Sitler died as the result of gunshot wounds to the head and chest, according to police.

CoudyNews is working to obtain more information in the matter, including verifying or debunking the well-circulated rumor that federal investigators were at the Coudersport school on Friday investigating Mr. Eldred.

Court Documents Detail Proclivities of Heterosexual Couple Charged in NH Student’s Death

By Associated Press, May 26, 2013:

DOVER, N.H. — Lizzi Marriott left a message saying she’d be home by midnight.

Five weeks into her first semester at the University of New Hampshire, the sophomore planned to attend a Tuesday night lab class that would end at 9 p.m. She wouldn’t have to hurry — she was staying with her aunt and uncle only about a half-hour drive from the campus where she’d transferred to study marine biology.

At 8:55 p.m., the 19-year-old sent a text saying she was going to visit a new friend, a co-worker at a department store near campus.

Less than two hours later, the former prom queen died with a rope around her neck.

The man charged with killing Marriott in October says her death was an accident during a night of consensual sex. Prosecutors call it murder. Either way, Marriott’s body is gone — dumped in a river that pours into the Atlantic Ocean.

The circumstances of Elizabeth Marriott’s death remain a dark mystery involving a couple who authorities say trolled fetish websites in search of sex slaves.

Thirty-year-old Seth Mazzaglio (right) was a 2006 graduate of UNH with a degree in theater and a fourth-degree black belt in karate who taught at the dojo he started attending as a child in Kittery, Maine. Nineteen-year-old Kathryn McDonough (below right) is a former honors student who dropped out of high school in February of last year.

Authorities describe them as bondage enthusiasts who frequented fetish sites — him under the monikers “DarkKaiser” and “Enigmatic Shadows” and her as “Rouge Temptress.”

The appeared together in a play — “Last Rites” — in July 2011 at a theater in Portsmouth. Eventually, they moved in together, sharing an apartment in Dover.

Police affidavits describe a text message Mazzaglia sent to McDonough in August. It described in lurid detail a bondage sexual encounter and suggested McDonough include a friend, someone to “offer” to him.

Authorities believe Marriott may have been that offering, lured to their apartment after class on Oct. 9 — not long after McDonough met her at work.

Marriott’s disappearance set off a full-scale search in the seacoast region that is home to the UNH campus. But it didn’t take long before Marriott’s last text message — telling a friend she was going to “Kat’s” — had investigators looking hard at McDonough and Mazzaglia.

Recently released court documents describe the couple’s interviews with police starting three days after Marriott disappeared. First Mazzaglia said Marriott had never made it to their place that night — he had gone out for a run, hurt his ankle and was slow returning to the house. McDonough told police she went to a nearby cemetery in hopes of capturing images of ghosts with her digital camera.

But Mazzaglia’s story soon began to change.

In an interview later the same day, he talked of bondage and sadomasochism. He implicated McDonough and another couple in harming Marriott, saying when he arrived home Marriott had a ligature mark around her neck. He suggested another man had done something terrible, but he wouldn’t say what.

Finally, police said, Mazzaglia admitted he was involved. He and McDonough were playing strip poker with Marriott and that led to intercourse. Mazzaglia said he was having sex with Marriott — and tightening a rope around her neck — when she had a “seizure.”

Mazzaglia told investigators neither he nor McDonough tried to revive Marriott or summon help. Instead, he told them, he put a grocery bag over her head and tied it at the neck.

A police affidavit describes interviews with another couple McDonough called the night Marriott died.

Roberta Gerkin said McDonough sounded “shaken” when she called asking Gerkin to come over at 10:49 p.m. When Gerkin and her housemate arrived, they both told police they saw a white female lying on the floor, a grocery bag tied over her head.

Gerkin told investigators when she used a box cutter to remove the bag, the woman’s face was blue. Gerkin and her housemate told investigators they overheard the couple talking about “dumping the body.”

Mazzaglia told investigators he and McDonough used Marriott’s 2001 Mazda to take her body to Peirce Island in Portsmouth, where they threw it and her cellphone into the Piscataqua River. When Marriott’s torso remained above water, he said, McDonough went into the water and pushed it under, making a joke about “Davy Jones’ locker.”

The pair then drove Marriott’s car to UNH, left it in a student lot and discarded her belongings in trash bins, authorities allege.

Mazzaglia was arrested Oct. 13 — a day after he was interviewed — and McDonough on Christmas Eve. He is being held without bond, charged with first-degree murder. She has been indicted on charges of conspiracy and hindering prosecution. She was released on $35,000 bond on the condition she live with her parents in Portsmouth.

Trial dates haven’t been set for either defendant.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, who has secured five first-degree murder convictions in all five “no-body” homicides he’s tried, said such cases can sometimes give prosecutors greater latitude at trial to explore the character of the victim — showing how she wouldn’t voluntarily leave family, friends and career behind.

While he would not discuss the Marriott case, he said defendants often convict themselves by giving multiple stories of what happened.

“You only have so much credibility,” Lewin said. “You can’t come in and argue five different things. But I want a jury to believe him because, when they find out half an hour later from his own mouth that he’s a liar, it’s three times as bad.”

Attorneys for Mazzaglia and McDonough did not return calls seeking comment, nor did a lawyer for McDonough’s parents.

Marriott’s family has declined to discuss her death. Through a family spokesman, they have railed at that notion she died during consensual sex with Mazzaglia. Prosecutors say there was nothing consensual about Marriott’s death but won’t say what evidence they have to back up their contention.

Family members describe Marriott as “gullible” — someone who easily could be taken advantage of because of her trusting nature. One family friend from Westborough, Mass., where Marriott grew up, called her naive.

“She was just a good girl. That’s probably what got her in trouble,” Dawn Downey said. “She was too trusting and she was beautiful. Those two things will kill you.”

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Two Lesbian Moms Raised a Baby in Nevada, and This is What Happened

Nevada is the most recent state to take steps towards legalizing gay marriage. On Thursday, the state assembly passed a resolution that would keep gay marriage on the table in future legislative discussions. The tally was 27 – 14, the latter of which were all Republicans. While the process of legalization will still require another vote of the assembly and a ballot voted on by the residents of Nevada, this represents an important turning point for the state, which prohibited same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2002.

The passing of this resolution was helped in no small part by the testimony of high school senior, Riley Roberts, who spoke about his childhood being raised by lesbian mothers. His touching speech was peppered with tears, anger, and even laughter, but above all, Roberts repeated that his life was “amazing” because of his “two loving parents.” His childhood was no different than any of his friends, and he had all the opportunities, love, and stability that any other family could provide. Most of all, Roberts stressed that marriage equality wasn’t a matter of tolerating supposedly deviant behavior, but of agreeing to provide the “rights, freedoms, and ability to be full and equal citizens of the United States of America” to everyone in the country.

In the words of Roberts himself, “What issue? I see no issue.”

Watch the full video of his testimony below:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Long Will Venango County Remain Silent About Being Home To Its Own Purveyor Of Hate, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania?

What Is the Endgame of the Anti-Gay Movement?

by Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out - The Huffington Post, May 23, 2013:

As if intending to justify the need for the International Day Against Homophobia, a vicious mob of more than 20,000 homophobes attacked 50 gay rights advocates who were commemorating this event in Tbilisi, Georgia. According to The New York Times, the attack was "led by priests in black robes" who "surged through police cordons" and "swarmed the busses" where the gay activists ran so that they could be evacuated.

"They wanted to kill all of us," said Irakli Vacharadze, the head of Identoba, the Tbilisi-based gay rights advocacy group that organized the event.

After the initial horror of the attack, I felt a powerful sense of relief. Finally, the world saw the unscrubbed underbelly of religious persecution against LGBT people in broad daylight. In Tbilisi, there were no sophisticated church PR gurus drafting saccharine statements to hide the hideousness of depraved minds and wicked hearts. There were no insincere attempts to spin the spite by laughably claiming to "love the sinner" but "hate the sin." What the world saw was a rare glimpse of would-be killers for Christ unplugged in their full glory.

We should be grateful for this peek at unfiltered prejudice, because most indoctrination and incitement takes place in the shadows. What people often fail to comprehend is that a colossal industry exists to demonize gay people, including numerous attempts to create conditions where homosexuals are imprisoned, assaulted and even murdered.

It is not just at the fringes of Christianity where calls for violence occur but in organizations that are considered mainstream. In January, for example, Campus Crusade for Christ (which recently rebranded itself with the hipper-sounding name Cru) sponsored an evangelism conference in Lagos, Nigeria. At the event, Dr. Seyoum Antonios, the head of United for Life Ethiopia, incited the crowd to frenzy, shouting multiple times that "Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!"

Antonios can't simply be dismissed as a renegade speaker, because two high-ranking vice presidents in the Campus Crusade international organization, Bekele Shanko and Dela Adedevoh, organized the conference. They invited Antonios to speak even though it was widely known that he led a movement to legislate the death penalty for LGBT people in Ethiopia.

The question is why an American organization that is currently on 1,600 college campuses, with extensive outreach within the U.S. military too, is giving a platform to an aspiring murder. It seems that the policy for groups like Cru is to persecute homosexuals to the full extent that a country allows them to get away with. Of course, this raises the question of what they would do to gays in America if given free rein.

If this is just a misunderstanding, then Cru should send a powerful message by apologizing for hosting Antonios and immediately cutting ties with Bekele Shanko and Dela Adedevoh. If advocating persecution and murder of LGBT people in Africa is indeed part of Cru's mission, then college administrators and military officials should strongly reevaluate whether this organization belongs in their institutions.

Of course, unlike the barbarians who bared their teeth in Tbilisi, we fully expect Cru to disingenuously split hairs and say that the organization did not promote violence, because it advocated a "graveyard for homosexuality" and not homosexuals.

That's an interesting concept; it's much like claiming that a campaign to wipe out Judaism won't harm Jews. I'd love to know the last time homosexuality was convicted of a crime and sent to jail while the gay person walked out of the courthouse free. I'd love Cru to show me tombstones dedicated to homosexuality that do not also have the rickety bones of a slain gay man or lesbian resting six feet below.

We can look at foreign anti-gay violence and discrimination and blithely conclude, "It could not happen here." However, the dehumanization of LGBT people, on a smaller scale, happens every single day in America. (Pictured at left, Diane Gramley, President of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.)

It occurred last week when a thug shot and killed Mark Carson in Greenwich Village for being gay. It happened when Edie Windsor was slammed with a $363,053 inheritance tax bill after her partner of 42 years, Thea Clara Spyer, passed away. (A straight surviving spouse would not have had to pay.)

We witnessed injustice in Columbus, Ohio, this week after Carla Hale, a lesbian gym teacher at a Catholic school, was fired after 18 years of service because her mother's newspaper obituary had outed her by mentioning her partner. We can see the vindictiveness in the senators who threaten to derail immigration reform if it includes gay couples, which would essentially ruin lives and tear families apart.

People can only perpetrate such vile deeds when they consider homosexuals to be inferior. In most of these cases, there is a sadistic joy of inflicting pain and punishment on LGBT individuals when they are already suffering, such as after a parent or partner's death.

Until religious leaders stop portraying the LGBT population as subhuman, we can expect more atrocities, whether in Tbilisi, Lagos or Greenwich Village.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Problem's Not "Gays in the Military," It's MEN in the Military! -- West Point Sergeant Accused of Filming Female Cadets

Women Were Secretly Filmed At West Point, the Army Says

from The New York Times - May 22, 2013:

WASHINGTON — A sergeant first class on the staff of the United States Military Academy at West Point has been accused of videotaping female cadets without their consent, sometimes when they were undressed in the bathroom or the shower, according to Army officials.

The Army is contacting about a dozen women to alert them that their privacy may have been violated by the suspect, identified as Sgt. First Class Michael McClendon, and to offer support or counseling, officials said.

The allegations at West Point, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious military academy, come in the midst of growing outrage in Congress, at the Pentagon and from President Obama over reports of sexual harassment and assault in the armed services. They also come as the Army has begun integrating women into combat positions, bringing added demands for fair and equal treatment of those in uniform.

The revelations are especially startling at West Point, which has had problems with sexual assault but also has many progressive faculty members and prides itself on having an environment of discipline and respect. Women have been enrolled at the two-century-old institution, on a commanding bank of the Hudson River in upstate New York, for nearly 40 years.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is to deliver the commencement address at West Point on Saturday, was briefed on the case Wednesday morning. Pentagon officials described him as “concerned and disturbed” by the allegations.

Sergeant McClendon, of Blakely, Ga., faces charges under four articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, for indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline. Sergeant McClendon, who had been assigned to the academy since 2009, was transferred to Fort Drum, N.Y., before charges were filed on May 14, Army officials said.

During his tenure at West Point, Sergeant McClendon served as a tactical noncommissioned officer, a position described in academy personnel documents as a staff adviser “responsible for the health, welfare and discipline” of a company of 125 cadets. The person in the position is expected to “assist each cadet in balancing and integrating the requirements of physical, military, academic and moral-ethical programs.”

The student body at West Point numbers about 4,500 cadets. Slightly more than 15 percent are female, and senior Army officials pledged immediate action to try to regain their trust.

“The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point — as well as all soldiers throughout our Army,” Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, said on Wednesday. “Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable.”

Officials said some of the videos were taken in the showers or the bathrooms, and some elsewhere on campus. Documents in the case indicate that in some instances Sergeant McClendon entered women’s bathroom and shower areas without knocking.

The number of sexual assaults reported at the military’s service academies has been steadily rising in recent years. In the 2011-12 academic year, there were 80 reports of sexual assault, compared with 65 in 2010-11 and 25 in 2008-9. The Defense Department is required by Congress to track sexual assault reports at the military academies.

The Army made no announcement of the charges against Sergeant McClendon, but it provided details after The New York Times learned of the inquiry from people with ties to West Point who said they were alarmed by the allegations and wanted to learn of the academy’s plans to investigate and prevent future violations.

George Wright, an Army spokesman, said the service and West Point would “rebuild trust” through their response. He said the Army was committed to “providing the full range of support to those whose privacy was violated,” as well as “keeping them updated on the case.”

“The Army will ensure the military justice system works through to its proper conclusion,” Mr. Wright said.

According to military service records, Sergeant McClendon joined the Army in 1990 and trained as a combat engineer. He deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and from 2007 to 2009 and was awarded a Bronze Star.

In recent weeks, allegations of sexual harassment and assault against women in the military have prompted vows from the Pentagon’s highest officials that they will confront the problem.

“It is time we take on the fight against sexual assault and sexual harassment as our primary mission,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, wrote in a message to all of his service personnel last week. “It is up to every one of us, civilian and soldier, general officer to private, to solve this problem within our ranks.”

These acts, General Odierno wrote, “violate everything our Army stands for.”

“They are contrary to our Army values,” he added, “and they must not be tolerated.”

Mr. Obama last week summoned the Pentagon’s senior leaders to the White House, telling them that the levels of sexual assault across the armed services were a disgrace that undermined the trust essential for the military to carry out its mission.

At the White House on Wednesday, Jay Carney, Mr. Obama’s press secretary, said the president had “zero tolerance for sexual assault in the military.”

“Those who participate in it dishonor the uniform they wear,” Mr. Carney said, and “those who are victims of it and who wear the uniform should know that the commander in chief has their backs.”

See New York Times Video report HERE.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Crowd Led by Priests Attacks Gay Rights Marchers in Georgia

by Andrew Roth for The New York Times, May 17, 2013:

MOSCOW — A throng of thousands led by priests in black robes surged through police cordons in downtown Tbilisi, Georgia, on Friday and attacked a group of about 50 gay rights demonstrators.

Carrying banners reading “No to mental genocide” and “No to gays,” the masses of mostly young men began by hurling rocks and eggs at the gay rights demonstrators.

The police pushed most of the demonstrators onto yellow minibuses to evacuate them from the scene, but, the attackers swarmed the buses, trying to break the windows with metal gratings, trash cans, rocks and even fists.

At least 12 people were reported hospitalized, including three police officers and eight or nine of the gay rights marchers.

“They wanted to kill all of us,” said Irakli Vacharadze, the head of Identoba, the Tbilisi-based gay rights advocacy group that organized the rally.

Nino Bolkvadze, 35, a lawyer for the group who was among the marchers, said that if they had not been close to the buses when the violence began, “we would all have been corpses.”

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of Georgia condemned the violence in a news release Friday evening, as the police urged the mobs to leave the city’s central avenue.

The attack comes amid an increase in antigay talk in Russia and Georgia, whose Orthodox churches are gaining political influence.

In a statement Wednesday, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, compared homosexuals to drug addicts and called the rally a “violation of the rights of the majority” of Georgians.

Conservative-minded Georgians traveled from other cities to condemn the gay rights demonstrators, and one told a television station that she had come to “treat their illness.”

“We are trying to protect our orthodoxy, not to let anyone to wipe their feet on our faith,” said Manana Okhanashvili, in a head scarf and long skirt. “We must not allow them to have a gay demonstration here.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Vacharadze of Identoba said that priests from the Georgian Orthodox Church had led the charge that broke through a heavy police corridor.

“The priests entered, the priests broke the fences and the police didn’t stop them, because the priests are above the law in Georgia,” he said.

Ms. Bolkvadze, the lawyer with Identoba, speaking by telephone from a safe house in the city, said that despite promises from the police that there would be “unprecedented” protection for the rally, the riot police were unprepared.

“They didn’t have helmets,” she said. “They didn’t have the right equipment.”

Friday, May 17, 2013

The War on Gays: American Christian Zealots Promote Bigotry Abroad

from The Economist - May 4, 2013:

IT MIGHT seem only a nasty coincidence. As gay rights advance in the West—France and New Zealand are the latest countries to legalise same-sex marriage—homophobia is on the rise elsewhere. But these apparently contradictory trends may be related. Confounded at home, a crusading squad of American conservative Christians are taking the fight abroad.

In an unusual case, brought under the Alien Tort Statute, a judge in Massachusetts is pondering a claim by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a gay-rights group, against Scott Lively, a preacher and co-author of “The Pink Swastika” (which argues that Nazism was fuelled by homosexuality). Mr Lively visited Uganda in 2009, meeting politicians, appearing on television, and sharing his theories about homosexuals’ recruitment of youngsters.

Shortly afterwards a Ugandan MP introduced a parliamentary bill that would stiffen existing penalties for homosexual behaviour; among other drastic measures it mandated the death sentence for “aggravated” homosexuality. Amid a burst of anti-gay vitriol, and headlines such as “Hang Them, They Are After Our Kids”, a gay activist was murdered. SMUG alleges that, on this occasion and previously, Mr Lively conspired to persecute Ugandan homosexuals. He says he advocated therapy and prevention, not harsh punishments.

This episode is part of a wider campaign. Other preachers, such as Lou Engle, a fundamentalist pastor at a megachurch in Kansas, have also been to Uganda. A new documentary, “God Loves Uganda”, depicts co-ordination between the visitors, resident missionaries and American-trained Ugandan priests. Offshoots of the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, in Kenya and Zimbabwe, are said to have resisted gay-friendly changes to their constitutions. (The ACLJ insists it “does not export an agenda”.)

In Africa campaigners adopt the language of anti-colonialism, portraying gay rights, and even homosexuality itself, as Western impositions; opponents counter that the criminalisation of gay sex is itself largely a legacy of empire. But the rhetoric and tactics are flexible. The Americans are happy, when necessary, to co-operate with like-minded Roman Catholic and Orthodox believers, which barely count as Christian in the eyes of extreme Protestants. Hardline Islamists are tacit allies too.

In the former Soviet Union, where homosexuality has mostly been legalised, the emphasis is on preventing its “promotion”. Here, says Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality, a lobby group based in Washington, DC, American efforts are feeding prejudice and anti-gay legislation.

Two bills trundling through Ukraine’s parliament, for example, would criminalise gay “propaganda” (a similar bill is on the stocks in Russia’s Duma). To be sure, indigenous hostility (sometimes violent) towards homosexuality abounds. But Jim Mulcahy, a retired priest now ministering to gays in Ukraine, thinks the anti-gay lobby’s resources and multimedia techniques bespeak American involvement.

Both Paul Cameron, an American psychologist who likens homosexuality to drug use, and Mr Lively, have toured eastern Europe. Gay activists in Moldova say that outsiders’ influence helped to reduce the prominence of sexuality in a recent anti-discrimination law. In Latvia Mr Lively fraternised with a church whose members have harassed gay-pride marches.

A third front is the Caribbean and Central America. Caleb Orozco of UNIBAM, a gay-rights group in Belize, is arguing in court that its criminalisation of homosexual sex violates the constitution. According to Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American civil-rights watchdog, a coalition of churches resisting the move is supported by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), another American outfit. (The ADF, like Mr Engle, could not be reached for comment.) Belize’s most prominent anti-gay cleric is American; his church is affiliated to a ministry in Arizona, whose leader has urged believers to raise the dead in morgues. Mr Orozco has been threatened and attacked with a bottle.

Collateral Damage

The American fundamentalists see themselves as defending biblical values and stemming degeneracy. Abroad, the policies they advance in that cause are often more extreme than those they espouse at home (though Mr Lively would like to “re-criminalise adultery, fornication and homosexuality” in America, too, albeit as minor misdemeanours). Several would like to usher in a global theocracy.

In America exponents of such ideas are liable to be dismissed as cranks and bigots; for their part they regard their own country as morally lost. But on their travels abroad they receive a respectful hearing, addressing parliaments and appearing on mainstream television.

That sort of reception boosts morale, but can offer practical benefits, too. Influence, visibility and access, in countries where (as the faithful see it) righteousness remains unvanquished, all help with fund-raising. The activists often traverse the same circuit, in what could be seen as a kind of competition.

The arguments they deploy make the connection between the changes in the West and the pushback elsewhere explicit. Anti-discrimination laws and other liberalising reforms are evidence of a worldwide secular conspiracy, against which Africa, or eastern Europe, or the Caribbean must fortify themselves. Occasional rebukes by the American government about persecution of gays abroad only prove the conspiracy’s power. Some clues suggest that the itinerants’ real focus is elsewhere. Their sound and fury about issues such as gay marriage and adoption may resonate in America, yet have little relevance in countries where even private homosexual acts are illegal.

Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who works for Political Research Associates, a liberal think-tank in Boston, observes that the campaigners face a powerful progressive lobby at home, but in east Africa their adversaries are isolated and weak. The suffering of homosexuals in such places, he says, is “collateral damage” in America’s culture wars.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Heterosexuals in the Classroom: Butler County Teacher Faces Felony Charges of Soliciting Sex from Students

Where's the American Family Association of Pennsylvania When We Need 'Em?

from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - May 14, 2013:

Since 2009, a high school English teacher in Butler County has inappropriately touched and communicated with five female students, state police said.

Jonathan M. Crum, 26, of Slippery Rock faces 26 criminal charges and is being held in the Butler County Prison.

State police wrote in a criminal complaint filed today that on various occasions, Mr. Crum, a Moniteau High School teacher, would grab female students' backsides and breasts, or rub their inner thighs and genitals through their pants.

A student performed oral sex on Mr. Crum at least five times, some of those instances during her lunch period or after school, police said. Twice, Mr. Crum told the student to take topless photos of herself, police said.

He told another student, both in person and via text message, he wanted to have sex with her in his classroom immediately after her graduation ceremony, police said.

Mr. Crum counted down the days until another girl would turn 18, police said. She told police that during his class once, he texted her and said "I want to bend you over my desk."

Mr. Crum faces 14 felony counts of intercourse or sexual conduct with a student; five felony counts of corruption of minors, defendant age 18 or above; two felony counts each of child pornography and criminal solicitation of child pornography; and three misdemeanor counts of indecent assault.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

When Did You Choose to Be Straight?

Street interviews conducted by Travis Nuckolls and Chris Baker in Colorado Springs prove that asking the right question can be more important than anything you can tell someone.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Archival Footage on U.S. Government’s “Lavender Scare”

"If we discover homosexuals in our department, we discharge them," 
said former Secretary of State Dean Rusk


Towle Road has released footage from an upcoming documentary about the United States’ gay “witch hunts” of the 1950s and ’60s, in which government agencies covertly investigated the sexuality of federal employees.

The footage, as described by “Lavender Scare” filmmaker Josh Howard, is a clear indication of how far America has come on gay rights – and how much further there is to go:

In 1965, Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols organized the first gay rights demonstrations the nation had ever seen. With a handful of others, they picketed the White House and other government buildings to protest the on-going ban on hiring gay and lesbian workers. On August 28th, they picketed the State Department. At a news conference the day before, Secretary of State Dean Rusk was asked about the protest. The derisive laughter from the press corps and Rusk’s dismissive response to the protest is chilling and hard to believe when seen from today’s perspective.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Peter Sprigg And The Values Victim Caucus

by Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out:

Wine may represent the blood of Jesus in church, but whine is the Religious Right’s drink of choice these days.

Having lost the culture war, their latest tactic is to falsely cast themselves as martyrs who are defending the faith and free speech against an increasingly totalitarian majority. Perhaps the biggest crybaby is the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg. He seems to believe that anyone who stands up to his vitriolic hate speech and toxic lies is guilty of intolerance.

However, what professional victims like Sprigg really object to, are people who are no longer cowed into silence and finally standing up to bullies. There was a time, not too long ago, when Sprigg could spew misinformation and get away with it. He could demonize gays and dehumanize atheists and there was little opposition.

Thankfully, this dynamic has changed. Sprigg and his fanatical fibs are regularly met by facts that expose his ugly bigotry. As a result, support for his incoherent and irrational positions on social issues has eroded. He sees this as a great conspiracy against fundamentalist Christians, rather than acknowledging that the American people have soundly rejected his bogus arguments.

A CNN article by John Blake summarizes the paranoia of the Values Victim Caucus:

"We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot."

Sprigg is not a victim, but an aggressive victimizer. The only reason he is labeled a hateful bigot is because he has engaged in hateful and bigoted speech. Laughably, the FRC spokesman couches his disdain for gay and lesbian people in the language of love.

According to the CNN article:

"Sprigg, from the Family Research Council, says his condemnation of homosexual conduct does not spring from intolerance but a desire to protect gays from harmful conduct."

The extreme right seems to forget that the Internet exists and their quotes are recorded for posterity, which make them look like a horses posterior. If Sprigg is so concerned about the health of my family, why did he tell MSNBC host Chris Matthews in 2008 that he wanted to “export” LGBT people from the United States of America? Why did he say on the same show, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.”

How is persecution and banishing people from the country where they were born, or imprisoning them, good for their physical or mental health? Such inconsistency and insincerity is why people have rejected the message of fake Christians like Sprigg.

If one wants to see real Christians who are attacked for their beliefs, look at those who are bold enough to stand up for LGBT equality. Pastors who act on their moral consciences and stand with their gay parishioners are often castigated and lose their churches. Anyone who doesn’t adhere to the party line is attacked or excommunicated.

For example, former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler tweeted his support for Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out as gay. His gesture of Christian love cost him $8,500 in fees from a church who pulled the plug on an upcoming speaking gig.

Why isn’t Sprigg defending the free speech of this particular Christian? Were Butler’s words not conservatively correct enough for Sprigg’s taste?

Last September, Maryland Rep. Emmett Burns wrote the owner of the Baltimore Ravens and demanded they silence linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who spoke out in favor of marriage equality.

Where was Sprigg when Ayanbadejo’s free speech was under attack?

In a column that discusses the marginalization of mainstream Christians, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni asks an important question:

"But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the same dignity as anyone else?

…there’s a religious center. A religious left. There are Christian moderates and Christian liberals: less alliterative and less dogmatic, but perhaps no less concerned with acting in ways that reflect moral ideals. We should better acknowledge that and them….And we should stop equating conventional piety with certain issues only and sexual morality above other kinds."

People like Sprigg aren’t satisfied simply being one of a cacophony of voices in the public square. They believe it is their God-given right to have dominion and their opinions are more important than everyone else’s. Such complainers are not victims of less speech, as they falsely claim. They are simply on the losing end of more speech, with the vast majority of people rejecting their debunked theories and archaic ideas.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Vince Lombardi: A Champion of Gay Rights

Vince, Whose Brother Hal Was Gay, Would've Been Proud of Jason Collins

by Ian O'Connor for ESPN - 5/4/13:

Vince Lombardi would have loved Jason Collins, and everything about him. Collins is bright, professional, respectful, team-centric, and proud to be gay. Right in Lombardi's wheelhouse.

Long before it was fashionable, Lombardi was a champion of gay athletes, if only because he was a champion of all athletes, at least those who helped him score more touchdowns than the other guy. It didn't matter if they were white or black, or if they dated men or women or both, or if they dated interracially or not.

"Like the saying goes," Susan Lombardi said by phone, "my father treated them all the same. Like dogs."

Actually, Vincent Thomas Lombardi treated his Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins as anything but. No, winning wasn't everything, or the only thing. In Lombardi's playbook, winning placed a distant second to simple human decency.

In 1969, the year before his death, the only year he coached the Redskins, Lombardi worked with at least five gay men -- three players and two front-office executives, including David Slattery, who would come out in 1993. In his defining biography, "When Pride Still Mattered," author David Maraniss described the scene of Lombardi charging an assistant to work with one of the gay players, a struggling back named Ray McDonald. "And if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood," Lombardi is quoted as saying, "you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground."

This was 44 years before Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, made history this week as the first active player among the four major American team sports to publicly reveal he is gay. This was 44 years before a basketball coach at Rutgers University was fired, in part, for degrading players with homophobic slurs, and before another coach was accused of using homophobic slurs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Lombardi's Green Bay.

"My father was way ahead of his time," Susan Lombardi said. "He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs that he deserved. He felt the pain of discrimination, and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was.

"I think it's great what Jason Collins did, because it's going to open a lot of doors for people. Without a doubt my father would've embraced him, and would've been very proud of him for coming out."

Richard Nicholls, 75-year-old resident of Rohnert Park, Calif., agreed with the thought. For more than four decades Nicholls was partners with Harold Lombardi, Vince's gay brother, who died in 2011 knowing that he had Vince's unconditional love and support.

Nicholls and Harold met in 1970, the year Vince succumbed to cancer at 57. Ultimately Nicholls hoped to get married, but Harold was a devout Catholic, just like Vince. "He was old school," Nicholls said by phone. "He knew the church wouldn't approve."

Nicholls called his longtime partner "Hal," and said he was a private man. "He loved Vin very much, and was very proud of him even though he wasn't much of a football man," Nicholls said. "We once had a conversation where Hal said, 'I appreciate that Vin treats gays so nicely. He probably does it because of me.'"

But Nicholls believes Lombardi, a coach he'd never met, would've been just as supportive of his gay co-workers and players had his brother been straight.

"Through Hal and in what I'd read and seen, Vin was always fair in how he treated everybody," Nicholls said. "I just thought he appeared to be a great man who accepted people at face value for what they were, and didn't judge anybody. He just wanted you to do the job."

That's the way Dave Kopay remembers it, too, as a running back with Lombardi's Redskins. In a 1975 newspaper interview, three years after he retired, Kopay became the first major team-sport athlete to come out as gay.

He never discussed his sexuality with Lombardi, but remains fairly certain the coach knew. Kopay said he had a relationship with Washington's star tight end, Jerry Smith, who never came out but was widely acknowledged to be gay; Smith died of complications from AIDS in 1986.

"Lombardi protected and loved Jerry," Kopay said by phone. The retired running back said he was "absolutely, 100 percent sure" his coach knew that two Redskins executives, including Slattery, were gay "because he was so close to both of them it would've been impossible for Lombardi not to know."

Kopay said he tried to convince Smith that the two of them should come out together. "But back then gay people were almost thought of as deviant," Kopay said. "It was really terrible at the time."

But Lombardi created an atmosphere of inclusion at work, running the ultimate NFL meritocracy. He'd won his five championships in Green Bay, so he arrived as something of a rock star in D.C.

"Supreme Court justices would come out to Saturday morning practices," Kopay said, "just to be around Lombardi. He was something else."

Kopay would write a best-selling book about his experiences as a gay athlete, and he believes the public discourse about his sexuality cost him opportunities in coaching. He received some hate mail. He said the Washington Star, the paper that published his 1975 interview, received a lot more.

Like Jason Collins, Kopay said he was a tough, physical athlete who never shied from contact. In fact, he recalled, "I was so aware of trying to run over people rather than run around them, to prove how tough I was, that it screwed me up and I ended up not playing as much for Lombardi as I thought I would."

And that's quite all right.

"Vince Lombardi had so much humanity, I was just lucky to have been around him," Kopay said. "He would've responded to Jason Collins just like Doc Rivers and these other coaches have. Lombardi would've really been in his corner, let me tell you."

Vince Lombardi Jr. could tell you a thing or three about that. A retired, 71-year-old motivational speaker, Lombardi is a dead ringer for his old man. One day a young Green Bay assistant named Tom Coughlin heard a knock on an office door at the Packers' facility, and looked up to find the very face of the iconic coach staring back at him through a small window.

Coughlin did a double take. It was Vince Lombardi Jr., not a ghost.

The son sounds like the father, too, especially when he speaks of treating everyone with dignity.

"My father had been discriminated against, and his faith was also a major part of his life and something that was reflected in the way he dealt with his players," Vince Jr. said. "With [Jason Collins] coming out, I think my father would've felt, 'I hope I've created an atmosphere in the locker room where this would not be an issue at all. And if you do have an issue, the problem will be yours because my locker room will tolerate nothing but acceptance.'"

Of course, the same was true of Lombardi's locker room in Green Bay, where he wouldn't let his Packers frequent any restaurant, bar or hotel that denied the same services to black players normally offered to white players. And when a black defensive end, Lionel Aldridge, revealed his plans to marry his white girlfriend, Lombardi blessed the union at a time when some around Green Bay, and around the league, were less than enthusiastic about it.

"I take a great deal of pride in the fact that, at a time when this was still cutting-edge stuff, my father was able to see through all of that and treated people as they deserved to be treated," Vince Jr. said. "He saw everyone as equals, and I think having a gay brother was a big factor in his approach."

As he has often seen on film stomping and shouting on the sideline, with spittle flying through his gap-toothed grimace, Lombardi represents the enduring symbol of NFL toughness and manliness. He was the winning coach in the Ice Bowl for a reason.

"He'd call you out in a variety of ways," Vince Jr. said. But even during his coaching prime, in less enlightened times, Vince Sr. would never run down a player with the kind of homophobic slurs still heard around some of today's playing fields.

"That's not one of the ways my father would've done it," Vince Jr. said.

His legacy should find room for his acceptance of all, right next to the titles in Titletown. Vince Lombardi would've turned 100 years old next month. Too bad he wasn't alive this week to congratulate Jason Collins.