Sunday, June 30, 2013

Meet Pennsylvania's Village Idiot: Rep. Daryl Metcalfe

"Metcalfe Is Now The Official State Embarrassment"

from The Times Online - Beaver, Pa.:

It’s not often you see the perfect mix of stupidity and hate on display as we did Wednesday on the floor of our own esteemed state House. To nobody’s surprise, though, Cranberry Township’s village idiot, GOP state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, was proudly at the center of it.

OK. OK. That was unfair ... to village idiots.

In case you’re unaware, openly gay Democratic state Rep. Brian Sims, Philadelphia, tried Wednesday to speak on the House floor about the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage only to have Metcalfe and another GOPer stop him.

How? Well, apparently, there’s something called “unanimous consent” where just one legislator can withhold permission — anonymously — to let another speak. A courageous rule there.

So if it’s anonymous, how do we know about Metcalfe? Because Daryl never met a microphone, camera or notepad he didn’t like if it helps solidify his virulent right-wing street cred with the neo-con media and voters back home.

Metcalfe told WHYY-FM radio station that Sims’ comments would have been “open rebellion against God’s law.”

He then told The Associated Press that, “For me to allow him to say things that I believe are open rebellion against God are for me to participate in his open rebellion.”

So, Metcalfe has appointed himself the arbiter of not only House remarks, but God’s enforcer, too. Heavy is the empty head that wears the crown, Daryl.

Sims’ comments would have been “ultimately offensive to the majority of my constituents, and myself,” Metcalfe said. Guess what, Daryl? There’s no law against being offended.

The rest of us are all too aware of that because your warped, sick brand of theocratic bigotry and its role in our state government offends us everyday.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Remembering The Worst Mass Murder of Gays in U.S. History: June 24, 1973, French Quarter, New Orleans

by Terry Firma in

The 24th of June in 1973 was a Sunday. For New Orleans’ gay community, it was the last day of national Pride Weekend, as well as the fourth anniversary of 1969′s Stonewall uprising. You couldn’t really have an open celebration of those events — in ’73, anti-gay slurs, discrimination, and even violence were still as common as sin — but the revelers had few concerns. They had their own gathering spots in the sweltering city, places where people tended to leave them be, including a second-floor bar on the corner of Iberville and Chartres Street called the UpStairs Lounge.

That Sunday, dozens of members of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the nation’s first gay church, founded in Los Angeles in 1969, got together there for drinks and conversation. It seems to have been an amiable group. The atmosphere was welcoming enough that two gay brothers, Eddie and Jim Warren, even brought their mom, Inez, and proudly introduced her to the other patrons. Beer flowed. Laughter filled the room.

Just before 8:00p, the doorbell rang insistently. To answer it, you had to unlock a steel door that opened onto a flight of stairs leading down to the ground floor. Bartender Buddy Rasmussen, expecting a taxi driver, asked his friend Luther Boggs to let the man in. Perhaps Boggs, after he pulled the door open, had just enough time to smell the Ronsonol lighter fluid that the attacker of the UpStairs Lounge had sprayed on the steps. In the next instant, he found himself in unimaginable pain as the fireball exploded, pushing upward and into the bar.

The ensuing 15 minutes were the most horrific that any of the 65 or so customers had ever endured — full of flames, smoke, panic, breaking glass, and screams.

MCC assistant pastor George “Mitch” Mitchell escaped, but soon returned to try to rescue his boyfriend, Louis Broussard. Both died in the fire, their bodies clinging together in death, like a scene from the aftermath of Pompeii.

Metal bars on the UpStairs Lounge windows, meant to keep people from falling out, were just 14 inches apart; while some managed to squeeze through and jump, others got stuck. That’s how the MCC’s pastor, Rev. Bill Larson, died, screaming, “Oh, God, no!” as the flames charred his flesh. When police and firefighters surveyed and began clearing the scene, they left Larson fused to the window frame until the next morning.

This news photo is among the most indelible I’ve ever seen:

Thirty-two people lost their lives that Sunday 40 years ago — Luther Boggs, Inez Warren, and Warren’s sons among them.

Homophobia being what it was, several families declined to claim the bodies and one church after another refused to bury or memorialize the dead. Three victims were never identified or claimed, and were interred at the local potter’s field.

When the Rev. William Richardson, of St. George’s Episcopal Church, agreed to hold a small prayer service for the victims, about 80 people attended, but many more complained about Richardson to Iveson Noland, the Episcopalian bishop of New Orleans. Noland reportedly rebuked Richardson for his kindness, and the latter received volumes of hate mail.

The UpStairs Lounge arson was the deadliest fire in New Orleans history and the largest massacre of gay people ever in the U.S. Yet it didn’t make much of an impact news-wise. The few respectable news organizations that deigned to cover the tragedy made little of the fact that the majority of the victims had been gay, while talk-radio hosts tended to take a jocular or sneering tone: What do we bury them in? Fruit jars, sniggered one, on the air, only a day after the massacre.

Other, smaller disasters resulted in City Hall press conferences or statements of condolence from the governor, but no civil authorities publicly spoke out about the fire, other than to mumble about needed improvements to the city’s fire code.

Continuing this pattern of neglect, the New Orleans police department appeared lackluster about the investigation (the officers involved denied it). The detectives wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was an arson case, saying the cause of the fire was of “undetermined origin.” No one was ever charged with the crime, although an itinerant troublemaker with known mental problems, Rogder Dale Nunez, is said to have claimed responsibility multiple times. Nunez, a sometime visitor to the UpStairs Lounge, committed suicide in 1974.

Watch the trailer for Royd Anderson’s new documentary about the UpStairs Lounge:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Colorado Beats Pennsylvania with Civil Rights over a Baseball Bat

In the summer of 2010, Venango County's own hate-group leader, Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, was the 'special guest' at an event that promoted violence against transgender people.  See "Bible Believing Christian Response to 'Out In The Silence' Promotes Anti-Transgender Violence" for the full story.

But news from Colorado offers a much more enlightened approach to dignity, respect and true family values:

Colorado Civil Rights Division Rules In Favor Of Transgender 6-Year-Old In Bathroom Dispute

from The Huffington Post - June 24, 2013:

DENVER — A Colorado civil rights panel has ruled that a suburban Colorado Springs school district likely discriminated against a 6-year-old transgender girl when it prevented her from using the girls' bathroom at her elementary school.

Coy Mathis's family raised the issue after school officials said the first-grader could use restrooms in either the teachers' lounge or in the nurse's office, but not the girl's bathroom at Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain.

Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis have said the district's decision would end up stigmatizing their daughter, who they said had come out of her shell when they began to allow her to live as a girl, instead of a boy.

The Colorado Division of Civil Rights found probable cause of discrimination in a letter dated June 18. The New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund announced the ruling in favor of Coy on Sunday.

Lawyers plan to explain the ruling Monday in Denver.

Since they filed their complaint, the Mathises have moved to the Denver suburb of Aurora, and Coy was homeschooled. It wasn't immediately clear whether the family would enroll her in the new district.

Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 has declined to discuss the case. The district, however, can seek arbitration or a public trial, said Cory Everett-Lozano, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

The Mathis' attorney, Michael Silverman, said it wouldn't make any sense for the school district to fight the ruling since Coy and her family are no longer in the district. "Our hope is that the case ends here," Silverman said.

School districts in many states, including Colorado, allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. Sixteen states, including Colorado, have anti-discrimination laws that include transgender people.

In Maine, the state's highest court heard arguments this month about whether school officials violated the rights of Nicole Maines, now 15, by requiring her to use a staff bathroom after there was a complaint about her using the girls' bathroom.

The Mathises said Coy, a triplet, showed an early preference for things associated with girls.

At 5 months, she took a pink blanket meant for her sister Lily. Later, she showed little interest in toy cars and boy clothes with pictures of sports, monsters and dinosaurs on them. She refused to leave the house if she had to wear boy clothes.

They said she became depressed and withdrawn, telling her parents that she wanted to get "fixed" by a doctor.

They said they later learned she had gender identity disorder – a condition in which someone identifies as the opposite gender. The Mathises said they decided to help Coy live as a girl and she came out of her shell.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss: What Straights Can Learn From Same-Sex Couples

Research finds that same-sex unions are happier than heterosexual marriages. What can gay and lesbian couples teach straight ones about living in harmony?

by Liz Mundy - Atlantic Magazine - June 20, 2013:

It is more than a little ironic that gay marriage has emerged as the era’s defining civil-rights struggle even as marriage itself seems more endangered every day. Americans are waiting longer to marry: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of first marriage is 28 for men and 26 for women, up from 23 and 20, respectively, in 1950. Rates of cohabitation have risen swiftly and sharply, and more people than ever are living single. Most Americans still marry at some point, but many of those marriages end in divorce. (Although the U.S. divorce rate has declined from its all-time high in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it has remained higher than those of most European countries.) All told, this has created an unstable system of what the UCLA sociologist Suzanne Bianchi calls “partnering and repartnering,” a relentless emotional and domestic churn that sometimes results in people forgoing the institution altogether.

Though people may be waiting to marry, they are not necessarily waiting to have children. The National Center for Family and Marriage Research has produced a startling analysis of data from the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that women’s median age when they have their first child is lower than their median age at first marriage. In other words, having children before you marry has become normal. College graduates enjoy relatively stable unions, but for every other group, marriage is collapsing. Among “middle American” women (those with a high-school degree or some college), an astonishing 58 percent of first-time mothers are unmarried. The old Groucho Marx joke—“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”—applies a little differently in this context: you might well ask why gays and lesbians want to join an institution that keeps dithering about whether to admit them even as the repo men are coming for the furniture and the fire marshal is about to close down the clubhouse.

Against this backdrop, gay-marriage opponents have argued that allowing same-sex couples to wed will pretty much finish matrimony off. This point was advanced in briefs and oral arguments before the Supreme Court in March, in two major same-sex-marriage cases. One of these is a constitutional challenge to a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The other involves California’s Proposition 8, a same-sex-marriage ban passed by voters in 2008 but overturned by a federal judge in 2010. Appearing before the high court in March, Charles J. Cooper, the lawyer defending the California ban, predicted that same-sex marriage would undermine traditional marriage by eroding “marital norms.”

Read Entire Story HERE

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Who Will Be The Last Bigot Standing?

Head of Exodus Ministry Issues Apology to Gay Community

Los Angeles Times - June 19, 2013:

Hours before going onstage in Irvine for a religious conference, the leader of a Christian ministry that had long been devoted to fighting homosexuality offered an apology to the gay community.

"We're sorry," said Alan Chambers, president of Florida-based Exodus International. He vowed to transform his mission "to help those who suffered so much pain."

"I am sorry I didn't stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names.... I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine," Chambers said in a statement.

"More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God's rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives."

Chambers plans to deliver that message when officials kick off the annual Exodus Freedom Conference on Wednesday night at Concordia College in Irvine.

He first offered an apology in a taped interview on "Our America With Lisa Ling," which airs Thursday.

Chambers said he contacted Ling this spring after months of thinking about "those who shared their very powerful stories with us through the years and the huge hurt we've caused to them. We wanted to do it publicly to reach others. And it was a very uncomfortable. It's something I wouldn't take all the money in the world to listen to again, but it was also something I had to do."

Chambers has served as president of the Orlando-based ministry for more than 11 years.

"To pretend that Exodus is a wonderful organization that never caused anyone trauma is not true. We need to change the way we do things, the language that we use, the truth of our story and how we interact with each other as Christians," he told the Times.

Brad Allen, a former Exodus employee who came out to his family and friends in 2012, and who appears with Chambers on the Lisa Ling show, said, "I was incredibly proud of him for doing this — and he's taking flak from all sides.

"He's being called a 'heretic' and the 'worst kind of sinner' but in his heart, he knows this is right."

Allen, who worked with Chambers as a church network coordinator, later became a pastor in Denver. He lost that job once he revealed that he is gay. He calls the Exodus apology "seismic."

In Southern California, a theology professor ordained two years ago after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America dropped its ban on same-sex ministers won election in May to become the church's first openly gay bishop.

"Here in 2013, with the anti-gay rhetoric ramping up, we do not want to make war," Chambers said in an interview with The Times. "We want to start a conversation. For so long, I've walked a tightrope of diplomacy" compared to this moment, in which he says he feels "free."

He hopes that "changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight" for Exodus — which works with more than 200 member ministries and agencies — "will bring resolution, and show I am serious in both my regret and offer of friendship

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

As More Republicans Come Out In Support of Gay Marriage, Will Venango County Remain Behind The Times?

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Becomes Third GOP Senator To Back Marriage Equality

The Washington Post - June 19, 2013:

A third Republican senator has come out in favor of gay marriage, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announcing her support Wednesday morning.

“I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government,” Murkowski wrote on her Web site. “When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values. I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another.”

Murkowski joins Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who earlier this year became the first GOP senators to back gay marriage. Murkowski is also the 54th sitting senator to endorse gay marriage. (All but three of the 54 members of the Senate Democratic caucus have also backed gay marriage.)

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming days on cases involving legalizing same-sex marriage.

Murkowski noted that Ronald Reagan’s daughter recently said the former president would have backed gay marriage today (something another of his children has disputed).

“Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way,” Murkowski said. “Countless Alaskans and Americans want to give themselves to one another and create a home together. I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen.”

Earlier Wednesday morning, Murkowski broke the news in an interview with KTUU-TV.

“There may be some that when they hear the position that I hold that are deeply disappointed. There may be some who embrace the decision that I have made,” she said. “I recognize that it is an area that as a Republican I will be criticized for.”

The news was hailed by the pro-gay marriage Human Rights Campaign.

“We hope other fair-minded conservatives like Sen. Murkowski stand up and join her,” HRC President Chad Griffin said. “Alaska may be nicknamed ‘the Last Frontier,’ but we’ve got to make sure that LGBT Alaskans don’t have to wait to find justice.”

Murkowski was long seen as a likely recruit for the pro-gay marriage camp. She is among the Senate’s leading moderates and earlier this year said her views on gay marriage were “evolving.”

Getting to the Bottom of Bigotry & Hatred, i.e. Understanding the American Family Association of Pennsylvania

by Dr. Joe Wenke - Huffington Post - June 18, 2013:

Hatred and bigotry are very old news. Yet they're in the news every day. More than that, they're in our face constantly, particularly on the Web. The Web is great, but the anonymity of social media provides the perfect breeding ground for haters to spew their hate speech.

Last week, when Sebastien de la Cruz, an 11-year-old Mexican-American boy wearing a mariachi outfit, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the third NBA finals game in San Antonio, Texas, his performance was met with a torrent of ethnic, anti-immigrant hatred. The bigoted response to this little boy, who was invited back to perform the national anthem for the fourth game, was shocking but hardly surprising.

Hate speech is absolutely pervasive on major social media sites 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For example, check out the comments on just about any YouTube video featuring a member of any minority group. They're disgusting. I've also found that if you hit the wrong button, so to speak, on Twitter (like if you type the words "gun control"), you are immediately treated to a barrage of vitriol and contempt.

Hatred is so pervasive that there's the danger that we may actually get used to it, become numb to it, write it off as "same old same old." If you feel yourself drifting in that direction, consider the anti-LGBTQ comments that were generated by a recent HuffPost story on the extremely high incidence of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth in San Francisco. Some of the comments are downright pathological. Consider, for example, the following remark, which has since been removed: "This [i.e., the high incidence of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth] is really good news. It is nice to see these kids care enough about the pain & embarrassment that they brought upon their parents, to end it once and for all."

Comments like that make me ashamed to be a human being. They also make me ask the obvious question: Why do people hate other people? What's at the bottom of hatred and bigotry?

For example, what exactly is it about a human being's sexual orientation that triggers such hate? What's it to them -- the haters of gay, lesbian and bisexual people -- whom other people are sexually attracted to and love? Why are transgender people so hated, so marginalized? Why is there so little respect for these courageous people?

Why do so many men hate women (and there seem to be a lot)? Why do they, the hateful men, think that they are superior to the women they hate? And what about hatred based on race, ethnicity, country of origin, religious or political beliefs? What's going on? Why is hatred so prevalent? Why is it such a big part of the human experience?

It's pretty weird when you think about it: Bigots hate people they don't know. They hate them because of the group they belong to. If you're a member of the group they hate, then they hate you even though they know nothing else about you. That's the very definition of bigotry.

But why hate a group of people? Well, in almost every case, people don't hate people from the group they belong to. They hate people from a group they don't belong to. For example, straight people don't hate other straight people just because they're straight, and white people don't hate other white people just because they're white. Haters, bigots, seem almost invariably to hate people who are different from them. To the haters, "different" is bad. Are they afraid of the different people? Do they feel threatened by them? On the other hand, are they perhaps secretly attracted to them? If they do feel threatened, however, what exactly is the threat? Do they think they are going to be hurt by the different people? Do they think the different people are going to take something important away from them -- like a job or a girlfriend? Are they going to change the neighborhood? Do they speak a language that the haters don't speak or understand? Do they dress differently? Eat different types of food? Celebrate different holidays?

It certainly appears to be part of the character of some human beings to hate whomever is different from them. That's really bad. That's really disturbing, but the whole truth is even worse. What's the whole truth? Two more things. Number 1: Bigots don't think they're bigots. They think they're right. Number 2: Often the justification for bigotry is based on religion. The justification for the denigration of women goes all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible. Similarly, the justification for believing that black people are inferior to white people, indeed the justification for slavery itself, was for hundreds of years based on the Bible story of the curse of Ham. Anti-Semitism has often been justified by the absurd idea that all Jewish people are responsible for killing Jesus, who was, of course, Jewish. Then there's the belief that your religion is the one true religion and that other people not only have no right to different religious beliefs but have no right to live. That incredibly lethal idea comes to fruition in the oxymoronic notion of "holy war," which is perpetuated today by the radical Islamic interpretation of jihad but which has a long and bloody history in Christianity as well, as evidenced by the Crusades and the Inquisition.

Most LGBTQ bigots base their bigotry on their religious beliefs, only they don't see their beliefs as bigoted; they think they're right, and they believe that their bigoted view of LGBTQ people is sanctioned by God. According to these people, being homosexual is unnatural, perverted, or, to use the Catholic Church's term, "disordered." I cannot conceive of a more hateful or disgusting characterization of another human being than to say that the very way that they are, their very being, is unnatural or perverted, but that is exactly what LGBTQ bigots believe. That's why "love the sinner, hate the sin" is really just a form of hate speech rather than legitimate Christian compassion. It says, "I don't hate you. You're my neighbor. The Bible tells me to love my neighbor, and I do, but you, my neighbor, need to change. Being homosexual is not an essential part of your being. You weren't born that way. Something went wrong somewhere. You need to acknowledge that and get some therapy. Go straight. Love someone of the opposite gender. If you can't do that, well, then you can never marry or have sex. By the way, you can't be a Boy Scout either."

I don't think we'll ever really know why human beings hate, but we do know how they most often justify their hatred. They do it through religion. It is profoundly disturbing but true: When it comes to sanctioning hatred and bigotry, religion is most definitely the root of all evil.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The GOP's Problem with Gay Rights

This segment aired on Friday night, June 14, when we were all still anticipating possible Supreme Court rulings this morning, but Rachel does a really good job illustrating the strange disconnect happening between the majority of the country and the GOP’s decision to continue pandering to its base on the issue of gay rights. She points out that, with the coming Supreme Court rulings, and with the coming vote on ENDA, this is no longer abstract, and the GOP is actually going to have to answer to the rest of the country, as opposed to just talking to their base.

Worth watching in its entirety:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality

Every Biblical Argument Against Being Gay, Debunked Biblically

from UpWorthy:

This is Matthew Vines. The New York Times is writing about him, thanks to his amazing work. He has a sermon you need to watch. It's long. And 350,000 other people have already watched it (that's how good it is.) But I can't begin to tell you how important his ideas are.

At 9:05, he pulls at the heartstrings of anyone who has them. At 24:12, he demolishes all arguments based on Leviticus, and he explains something you'll never forget about Old Testament "abominations" at 29:12. At 35:37, he unpacks the thorniest New Testament passage, burying the "unnatural" argument once and for all at 47:06.

At 58:48, he makes one of the most effective Bible-based arguments for gay marriage you'll ever hear. And at 1:03:32, he closes with a plea for acceptance that's been melting the hearts even of dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptists.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Religious Liberty Is Not A License To Discriminate

by Julian Bond - Politico - June 12, 2013:

By the mid-1960s, the civil rights movement had made significant cultural, legal and political progress in advancing the cause of racial justice and equality under the law — a struggle that continues to this very day. This was a rapidly evolving, heady time in American history.

It was a time when individual men, women and, yes, children came together to literally bend the moral arc of their nation in the direction of justice.

In our current day, we have approached a very similar point in the struggle for basic fairness and equality under the law for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. The incredible progress this community has made over the past four decades is remarkable on many levels and is a testament to what is possible when everyday people come together to make real the promise of America.

Today, gay and lesbian people are widely visible in popular culture, increasing numbers of elected officials are “coming out” in support of fairness and equal treatment, and landmark cases related to marriage for same-sex couples are pending at the Supreme Court. This barrier is even starting to be broken in professional sports.

We did not arrive at this point by happenstance. It took a great deal of courage and decades of advocacy and activism on the part of many.

However, as LGBT people have gained greater equality under the law, we are hearing similar objections to the ones I heard in response to the civil rights gains of African-Americans in the 1960s. We hear people asking for exemptions from laws — laws that prohibit discrimination — on the ground that complying would violate their religious beliefs.

I heard this argument in Maryland last year when working to secure the freedom to marry for committed and loving same-sex couples. And now we are hearing it in Congress with respect to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, critical federal legislation introduced in Congress in April that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most American workplaces.

ENDA follows in the mold of life-changing civil rights laws that, for decades, have prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, age and disability. However, there are some who feel that ENDA must allow religiously affiliated organizations — far beyond churches, synagogues and mosques — to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people.

We haven’t accepted this in the past, and we must not today. In response to the historic gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, opponents argued that their religious beliefs prohibited integration. To be true to their religious beliefs, they argued, they couldn’t serve African-Americans in their restaurants or accept interracial marriages.

Indeed, during consideration of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 (and again in 1972), there were attempts to provide religious organizations with a blank check to engage in discrimination in hiring on the basis of race, sex and national origin — like the one now proposed for ENDA — and both times we said no to those efforts. We weren’t willing to compromise on equality. We weren’t willing to say that African-Americans were only mostly equal. Today’s struggles are similar in that we shouldn’t accept only partial equality for LGBT people.

Let me be clear. Religious liberty is one of our most cherished values.

It guarantees all of us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs. But it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others. Religious liberty, contrary to what opponents of racial equality argued then and LGBT equality argue now, is not a license to use religion to discriminate.

Today, discrimination against individuals based on their race, sex, national origin, age or disability is almost universally viewed as unacceptable. That is because people of goodwill came together to make it so. At this critical moment in history, we should also come together to make clear that our LGBT brothers and sisters deserve full equality under the law, not just 80 percent. I believe in America’s promise of equality under the law for all. I hope that Americans from across the political spectrum will stand with me.

Julian Bond is chairman emeritus of the NAACP and a professor at American University.

Seneca Man Convicted of Raping 11-year-old Girl


OIL CITY, Pa. (June 13, 2013) – A 53-year-old Seneca man has been found guilty in connection with the 2012 rape of an 11-year-old girl.

53-year-old Stuart James Proper was arrested in October 2012 in connection with the rape of an 11-year-old girl at a location on Oil City’s North Side. Police say Proper had sexual contact with the victim on two separate occasions, once in late August 2012 and once in early September 2012.

Proper was a live-in boyfriend of the victim’s mother, according to police.

In Venango County Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday, Proper was found guilty on the following felony charges:

- Rape of Child Guilty
- Invol. Deviate Sexual Intercourse W/Child
- Agg. Ind. Assault of Child
- Indecent Assault Person Less than 13 Years of Age
- Corruption Of Minors

According to court documents, Proper is awaiting sentencing.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gays Feel More Accepted But Still Stigmatized, Pew Research Center Survey Finds

by Carol Morello - Washington Post - June 13, 2013:

With some trepidation, Tammy Smith returned to her tiny home town in rural Oregon last year, shortly after she was named a brigadier general in the Army reserves.

Folks there had known her as a tomboy active in the Future Farmers of America when she was growing up, and Smith wasn’t sure how they would receive her and her new wife, Tracey Hepner.

But at a reception the town threw for Smith, old men from the Veterans of Foreign Wars post wanted their pictures taken with her, often insisting that Hepner join the photo. One woman gave the couple a wedding present, a small sculpture of two kissing doves that graces their living room in Arlington. The local newspaper called Smith’s promotion one of the most positive news items to hit the town of less than 1,000 people that year.

“There was a sense of pride that Oakland, Oregon, had produced somebody who not only was a general, but someone prominent who is out,” said Smith, 50, the first openly gay officer of flag rank in the military. “It was an amazing and unexpected response.”

The welcoming embrace that Oakland showed Smith and Hepner is becoming increasingly common in the United States. In a new poll by the Pew Research Center released Thursday, nine in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults said that society had become more accepting of them in the past decade and that they expected it to be even more open to them in the years ahead.

However, only 19 percent said there is “a lot” of acceptance for gays, while 59 percent chose to characterize it more softly, as “some” acceptance, and 21 percent said there was little to none. More than half said they had been subjected to slurs or jokes about gays, and sizeable numbers said they had been rejected by friends or family, threatened with physical attack or made to feel unwelcome at a house of worship.

The Pew survey of 1,197 LGBT adults, exploring many aspects of their lives, is the first of its kind by a major polling organization.

It asked them when they realized they weren’t straight, when they came out to family and close friends, and how they have been stigmatized in society. It also found that only small minorities of gay people have anything positive to say about the military, professional sports leagues or the Republican Party. Compared with the general public, Pew said, gays and lesbians are more liberal, more Democratic, less religious, less happy with their lives, yet more satisfied with the direction the country is headed.

“For the LGBT population, these are the best of times,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center. “But that does not mean these are easy times or their lives are uncomplicated. Many are still searching for a comfortable, secure place in a society where acceptance is growing but still limited. That is part of the drama of their lives.”

Pew and many of the gay people it polled link much of the growing acceptance to the fact that more people personally know someone who is gay. In an earlier Pew poll of the general public, almost nine in 10 people said they have a gay friend or relative, up from six in 10 only a decade ago.

The gay people polled by Pew said they think lesbians are welcomed more in society than gay men are. One in four said there is a lot of acceptance of lesbians. Just 15 percent characterized it that way for gay men. A third said bisexual women are accepted a lot, compared with just 8 percent of bisexual men. And only 3 percent of those polled said transgender adults meet a lot of acceptance.

One striking finding of the Pew poll is the young age at which many gay people say they realized they weren’t straight.

The median age at which gay men said they had their first inkling was 10, and they knew for sure by 15. For lesbians, the median age when they first thought they might not be straight was 13, and they were certain by 18. The median age when they first divulged their secret to someone was 18 for gay men and 21 for lesbians.

Janelle Thomas remembers feeling “different” when she was in second grade and looked forward to math lessons. In retrospect, she realizes that was because she had a crush on the female math teacher.

She said she had boyfriends in high school in Southern Maryland, but it was only when she went to college and met other lesbians that she realized who she is.

“I got into a very dark place where I didn’t feel I was myself,” said Thomas, now 27 and a Web content coordinator for the federal government who lives in the District with her wife, a D.C. police officer. “It just came to me. Oh, that’s probably what it is. I suddenly felt better.”

Older gays, who came of age in less accepting times, often recall their dawning realization as a time of struggle — with themselves, society at large and those who love them, such as parents and siblings. And they came out later in life. In the Pew survey, two in three gay men and lesbians younger than 30 said they came out to close friends and family before age 20. That was true of less than half those who are 30 to 49 and barely a third of those who are 50 and older.

Matt Cloniger, a 40-year-old government consultant who lives in the District, was confused by his lack of attraction to girls while he was in high school during the 1980s. But as the son of a Pentecostal minister at a time when the AIDS epidemic was depicted as a gay disease, he said he could not acknowledge, even to himself, that he wasn’t straight.

“In wrestling with this attraction I had and all the confusion, there’s many a night I remember sitting in my bedroom praying and crying and begging God to take away these feelings and give me feelings that would be normal or straight,” he said.

He was in college, on a Christian leadership scholarship at Southern Methodist University, before he came to grips with his sexuality and came out to a few co-workers at an off-campus restaurant. His father confronted him after he moved into an apartment with a gay friend, asking him flat out whether he was gay.

Cloniger said that although he has never doubted his parents’ love for him, he knows that his sexuality has caused them agony. The night before his 2008 wedding in San Francisco, Cloniger said, his father called in tears to say he could not attend. Cloniger said his nieces and nephews have never met his husband, and though he has told his brother he is gay, they never discuss it.

A senior warden at St. Thomas Episcopal Church near Dupont Circle, Cloniger said his family has grown more comfortable around him and his husband, but only to a degree.

“It’s certainly hard being comfortable with myself and seeing where my family is,” he said, “going to family reunions where my spouse is not necessarily welcome. My parents have come to love and accept Brett. But with the rest of the family, no one wants to say anything about it.”

In the Pew poll, about seven in 10 gay men and lesbians have told their mothers about their sexuality, and roughly half have told their fathers. But a third haven’t passed the milestone of telling Mom and Dad.

Gary Gates, a Williams Institute demographer of the gay community, said it underscores the stigma still attached to homosexuality.

“There’s definitely this notion that it does get better, and it has gotten better for most people,” he said. “But there are a lot of people who are sufficiently concerned that they don’t feel comfortable coming out.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Family Values - Jonathan Allen - America's Got Talent

Jonathan Allen was kicked out of his house on his 18th birthday for being gay, he then was unemployed and decided to pursue his dream of singing by going on Americas Got Talent

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Religion and the Mystery of God

"The Church Doesn't Like the People to Grow Up."~ Bishop John Shelby Spong

John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop from Newark, N.J., interviewed by Keith Morrison on Dateline, NBC, 8-13-2006

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It's the 'Gay Agenda' in Public Schools (And It’s Fabulous)

by Mr. Arturo Avina, kindergarten teacher at Olympic Primary Center in the Los Angeles Unified School District:

Oh. My. God. Conservatives were actually right on this one. The "gay agenda" is infiltrating our public schools! And you know what? It's absolutely fabulous.

My talented kindergarteners at Olympic Primary Center in the Los Angeles Unified School District—who found online success earlier this year with their outstanding film adaptation of the beloved book "Miss Nelson is Missing"—celebrated the end of an eventful school year by performing Cyndi Lauper's classic anthem, "True Colors." In the video above, you can see how as they sing, they use American Sign Language while the audience reflects on the statements "You Are Good" and "You Are Perfect." Combine that with rainbows, messages of love, and a great pop song and you have a touching performance that represents what my students have learned.

The lesson: love yourself, and always show love, kindness, and respect towards others no matter who they are. Regardless of ethnicity, sex, gender, religious creed, or sexual orientation, EVERYONE is worthy of love.

So, why this song? Well, why not? Although children can do no wrong with whatever they sing, I wanted to send them off for the summer with a song I genuinely loved that at the same time had a positive message for them. And I didn't want them to just recite a song, I wanted them to understand it.

After a few weeks of rehearsal and learning lyrics, I asked, "What do you think the song is about?" One student replied, "God doesn't like the world to be black and white, so he made many colors to make it beautiful." Yes! His thinking was on the right track and I was elated to hear that the message was getting through.

In a writing assignment given to them the day after the performance, I posed the same question. Even though I still got some answers that were quite literal. "It is about red. I like red," one student replied. "We sang 'True Colors' because we all deserve love. I love this singin!' " I was grinning from ear to ear. Mission accomplished.

I did not need to push any specific "agenda" or single out any particular group of people when I discussed the meaning of this song with my students—it wasn't necessary. Addressing diversity isn't anything new in my classroom, and if the song's message really made it through to my students and they truly internalized the importance of universal love and respect, then that should automatically translate to inclusivity. If they're taught to love unconditionally, then they should understand that there is not one group of people that is the exception to the rule. As these children go on to first grade (and beyond), what better message is there than that?

In the end, our show is open to interpretation. Most people may see this as a precious performance full of love and sweetness. Others might find it especially poignant at a time when the country is on the brink of marriage equality. Inevitably, there will be some detractors that may find it appalling—we had a few with last year's "Vogue" performance—due to our use of an innocuous rainbow coupled with a radical message of love. So be it. If this is what the "gay agenda" looks like in public schools, let's bring it on. It's breathtakingly beautiful.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Harvey Fierstein Talks About Anti-Gay Religious Advocates

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We generally refrain from using the word fierce, but sometimes it's totally warranted.

Case in point: The following sound byte from Harvey Fierstein, who could soon bring home a Tony for his libretto for the Broadway hit "Kinky Boots" and who recently dropped by MSNBC to chat with Thomas Roberts about a variety of topics, including anti-gay religious advocates:

"Can you imagine if I was on a school board and I came in and I said, 'you know, I don't want any Jews or Christians teaching my kids, because they believe in people living inside whales, and they believe in slavery, and stoning women who have had an affair, so I just don't want any of those Christians or Jews.' Can you imagine? But they feel just absolutely free to say that about gay people."

Biblical Marriage Not Defined Simply As One Man, One Woman: Iowa Religious Scholars Say

By Meredith Bennett-Smith in The Huffington Post - June 6, 2013:

A trio of Iowa-based religious scholars penned an op-ed in a local paper this week, reminding readers that despite popular opinion, the Bible does not simply define marriage as between one man and one woman.

The joint editorial was written by Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson and published in the Des Moines Register on Sunday. The men teach at Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, respectively.

"The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible," the authors wrote. "Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy."

The Bible's definition of marriage can be confusing and contradictory, noted the scholars. They stated in their column that a primary example of this is the religious book's stance on polygamy, a practice that was embraced by prominent biblical figures Abraham and David. Furthermore, Avalos, Cargill and Atkinson point out that various Bible passages mention not only traditional monogamy, but also self-induced castration and celibacy, as well as the practice of wedding rape victims to their rapists.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Iowa University Professor Robert R. Cargill said the column was the brainchild of his colleague Hector Avalos, who suggested local scholars put together an "educated response" to the often-touted claim that the Bible defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman. "[T]hat's not the only thing the Bible says," Cargill told HuffPost.

He explained that it is obvious to scholars (and some religious leaders) that the Bible endorses a wide range of relationships. But he noted, however, that professors are "terrified" of the potential backlash that might result from opening a dialogue about these relationships. Cargill also noted that the initial response to the Register column has included its fair share of vitriol.

Ultimately, said Cargill, a Biblical "argument against same-sex marriage is wholly unsustainable. We all know this, but very few scholars are talking about it, because they don't want to take the heat."

He suggested that academics who continue to be cowed by a strident opposition do a disservice to their communities.

"Most people aren't dumb, they want to make an informed decision" on religiously charged questions, Cargill said. "If scholars aren't talking to them, they have to rely on talk show hosts and pundits, and that's not the most reliable source of information."

Cargill also realizes that there are some people he may never be able to convince.

Many politicians have made a career out of using the Bible to justify opposition to hot-button topics like same-sex marriage or abortion. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), for example, told a crowd of evangelicals in April that Americans cannot "retreat from our values and fail to make the case on issues like marriage -- because it is one man, one woman -- because God said it is."

Cargill said Bachman and her like-minded colleagues use a strategy he calls "cherry picking" to appeal to their base.

"Politicians who use the Bible aren't necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible," he said. "They are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe."

Anyone who argues that "the Bible speaks plainly on one issue, especially something as complicated as marriage ... haven't take the time to read all of it," he added.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Even Jesus Was Different

What Cosmology Can Teach Us About Morality

by Joel Primack - Big Think:

Morality is a complicated subject because it depends so much on human traditions and human understanding of how we live and how we interact with each other. Cosmology, as the term is used by anthropologists, represents the big picture of the world and how we humans fit into it. We scientists use the word, “cosmology” to refer essentially, exclusively to the science of the whole universe, its origin, evolution, structure and composition. But in the larger sense, cosmology is the big picture that we humans all live in.

Now one of the problems of morality has been that a crucial part of traditional moralogy is an “us versus them” attitude. That there’s the "in crowd" and then there’s the outsiders. And the rules that apply to us are very different than the rules that apply to them and to our interactions with them. So, for example, in the Bible, in the Ten Commandments, the “Thou shalt not kill,” obviously doesn’t apply to the enemies of the Hebrews who were killed with abandon and, in fact, God commands that they all be annihilated under certain circumstances. So that’s because that, “Thou shalt not kill,” really only applies to us, in this case the Hebrews.

Now, the problem is, that as the world has become more and more integrated and when things that happen in one place don’t stay in that place, but affect the whole world, this us/them mentality has to break down. We have to start to see “us” as being all humanity, and in fact, maybe all life on Earth or Earth itself. And, cosmology can help us do that because cosmology makes it clear that Earth is a gem of the cosmos; it’s an extraordinary planet. We’ve now discovered more than a thousand planetary systems. There isn’t any that resembles our own.

And in many respects, our planetary system is truly extraordinary. And Earth is, in some ways, the most extraordinary planet of them all. It’s been in what we call the habitable zone around the sun for its entire lifetime and will continue to be in the habitable zone for a long time. And it’s the only planet that has been.

And if we can simply preserve the good features that we’ve inherited on Earth, Earth can become, can remain, the Eden of the universe, at least, the known universe. And it’s very important that humans understand that we are more closely related than almost any species is. We humans seem to have come through at least one bottleneck where there were a very small number of humans, something like 50,000 years ago, and we’re all descended from that small number of humans.

Genetically, we humans are more closely related to each other than almost any other species is related. And we all face many problems, which are essentially the same across the world. So to the extent that modern cosmology, the understanding of our origin and evolution, can give us this understanding that we’re all in this together, we can break down that crucial column of traditional morality of the “us versus them” and see it all as “us.” And I think that that could be one of the most important achievements of humankind, especially over this critical transition at the end of our exponential inflation on our home planet.