Monday, July 14, 2014

Western Pa. English Teacher Victimizes Two 18y.o. Males

"Hot English Teacher Victimizes Two 18-Year-Old Males
By Banging Them, Giving Them Beer"

from The Daily Caller - July 12, 2014:

A married, 26-year-old high school English teacher has been arrested for having sex with two 18-year-old male students and giving them some beer inside her home while her husband was out of town on business

The teacher, Tiffany Leiseth, was a long-term substitute teacher for the New Brighton Area School District in rural western Pennsylvania, reports Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WPXI.

According to police, Leiseth invited one of the two male high school seniors over to her house in Moon Township, Pa. on the last day of school. She gave him a beer. They had sex.

The very next day, police say, the second student went to went to her home. There was more sex and some more beer.

Prior to all the excitement, Leiseth had – of course – sent the two students nude photos of herself.

Under Pennsylvania law, Leiseth seems to have jumped the gun on the deadline for teacher-student sex by just a few days. She now faces charges of institutional sexual assault – a third-degree felony – because the students had not yet officially graduated.

The raft of charges against the teacher also includes furnishing alcohol to minors, notes CBS Pittsburgh.

“Regardless of your age, whether you’re an adult or not, if you’re a high school student, a teacher cannot have sexual relations with you,” Moon Township Police Chief Leo McCarthy told WPIX.

McCarthy added that the law originated in 2007 “to give people who are being supervised by others protection.”

Leiseth’s attorney, Mike Deriso, argues that the law doesn’t apply in this case.

“She was not their teacher at the time, and they were not her students,” Deriso told CBS Pittsburgh. “My client did not pursue those boys. They are adults. They make their own decisions.”

Police do admit that it was no crime when Leiseth sent nude images of herself to the high school students because they were 18 at the time they received the images.

According to the cops, one of the two teens said Leiseth warned him not to tell anyone about the illicit fling.

That plan apparently didn’t work out, though, because the school district superintendent Joseph A. Guarino called the cops after he had received a couple phone calls about the hanky-panky.

“They had a rumor that a school teacher was sending nude photographs of herself to two male students,” McCarthy explained to CBS Pittsburgh. “They followed up on that rumor and they found those students, and they found the nude photographs, and they identified the teacher.”

School district officials have sacked Leiseth since the alleged incidents came to light. She had been a district substitute for two years and was serving as a long-term sub in an English class this school year.

The school district issued a statement praising itself for providing “complete cooperation with all involved agencies” and declining further comment “in light of pending litigation.”

Local parents applauded the arrest.

“Set the example for any other teachers or administrators that have any thoughts of doing anything like that,” parent Howard Yellock told WPXI.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Evolution of the ʻNational Organization for Marriageʻ

Maggie Gallagher Throws in the Towel

from Daily Kos - May 2, 2014:

Maggie Gallagher has posted an astonishing piece on her blog this morning pretty much conceding defeat in her fight against marriage equality. The piece reads like a post mortem of the complete failures of NOM and other similar groups and questions the path forward for them as the country finds their bigoted views unacceptable in the public square.

The handwriting is on the wall and Gallagher knows it. Marriage bans are now under review in five federal appellate courts. Our unanimous victories in the lower courts and last year’s Supreme Court decision remanding the Prop. 8 challenge and dismantling of DOMA have forced her hand and her post gently tries to break the news to her frothy followers.

Right now most people who believe in the classic understanding of marriage are in shock, they are awed by the powers now shutting down the debate and by our ineffectualness at responding to these developments.

The temptation to shout and yell and stamp our feet in ineffectual ridiculousness is understandable, but it is to be resisted.

Hiding or pretending is not going to help us, now. We have to face the truth. And we have to find the Love at its heart.

And we will have to do new things, not simply do what failed, over and over again, harder.

Do take the time to read the entire piece. In it, she brings up the recent flap over Brendan Eich's ouster at Mozilla as well as the evolution of Charles Cooper. Cooper is the attorney who defended Prop 8 before the Supreme Court who has had an about face as he plans a wedding for his daughter to another woman. She goes on to discuss the complete failure of the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" legislation in Arizona and bemoans that "progressives got the conservative movement to fold with credible and major GOP figures." She rightly sees this as a harbinger of things to come.

Although Gallagher takes pains to reassure her readers that she will still be around to help them "to build among the ruins of the old America, something new", she does not lay out any suggestions on how to make that happen. Like the Republican's plan to replace Obamacare, her plan to stop the tide of equality by reintroducing and selling bigotry wrapped in a pretty new bow simply doesn't exist.

All that appears left for Maggie now is her own evolution.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oil City Man Charged with Rape of Young Girls, No Comment from American Family Association of Pennsylvania

from April 29, 2014:

OIL CITY, Pa. (EYT) – Around 5:17 p.m. today Oil City Police arrested a 64-year-old Oil City man on alleged child rape charges.

Police say after a three month long investigation, they arrested with a warrant 64-year-old Richard W. Keltz, of Oil City.

He was charged with the following offenses:

- one count of Rape of a Child
- six counts of Aggravated Indecent Assault
- three counts of Unlawful Contact with Minors
- one count of Indecent Assault

The charges are all felonies of the first and third degrees, according to police.

The charges were filed after it was learned that Keltz allegedly committed the sexual offenses with girls – ages eight, 11, and 12 – in the city of Oil City and Two Mile County Park, over a period from 2011 to January 2014 when the alleged abuse became known, police say.

Keltz was arraigned in front of District Judge Fish and placed in the Venango County Jail in lieu of $250,000.00 bail.

A preliminary hearing has been set for May 7.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Traditional Marriage in Pennsylvania Includes Craigslist and Murder

No comment on this story yet from the American Family Association of Pennsylvania's champion of family values, Diane Gramley ...

Pennsylvania Newlyweds Killed Man for Thrills, Police Say

By Associated Press - Dec. 7, 2013:

SUNBURY, Pa. » A couple married for just three weeks lured a man to his death with a Craigslist ad because they wanted to kill someone together, police said.

Elytte Barbour told officers before his arrest Friday night that he and his wife, Miranda, had planned to kill before, but their plans never worked out until last month when Troy LaFerrara responded to an online posting that promised companionship in return for money, authorities said.

Elytte Barbour, 22, and Miranda Barbour, 18, face criminal homicide charges in LaFerrara's death. His body was found Nov. 12 in an alley in Sunbury, a small city about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

According to Sunbury police, Elytte Barbour told investigators he hid in the backseat of the couple's SUV as his wife picked up LaFerrara at a mall Nov. 11. He told police that, on his wife's signal, he wrapped a cord around LaFerrara's neck, restraining him while Miranda Barbour stabbed him.

The 42-year-old Port Trevorton man was stabbed 20 times, police said.

Miranda Barbour was charged Wednesday. She initially denied knowing LaFerrara, but her story evolved as investigators gathered evidence, including the discovery that the last call received by the victim's cellphone was made from her number, according to a police affidavit.

The affidavit said Miranda Barbour acknowledged meeting the victim in Selinsgrove and driving with him to Sunbury, where they parked. She said LaFerrara groped her and she took a knife from between the front seats and stabbed him after he put his hand around her throat, according to the affidavit.

Police said Miranda Barbour had told them she purchased cleaning supplies at a department store after stabbing LaFerrara, then picked up her husband and took him to a strip club for his birthday. On Friday, police said, Elytte Barbour told them he was the one who had purchased the cleaning products, an account investigators said was backed up by surveillance footage.

Following his wife's arrest, Elytte Barbour told The Daily Item of Sunbury that Miranda Barbour, whom he married Oct. 22, regularly hired herself out as a "companion" to men she met on various websites, a business venture he said he supported because it didn't involve sexual contact.

Barbour said his wife made anywhere from $50 to $850 by meeting with men for such activities as having dinner together or walking around a mall. The ads she placed on websites including Craigslist all said upfront that sex was not part of the deal, he said.

"She is not a prostitute," he said. "What she does is meet men who have broken marriages or have no one in their lives, and she meets with them and has delightful conversation."

Elytte Barbour didn't have an attorney at his arraignment Friday night. A phone message left for his wife's public defender early today was not immediately returned.

Sunbury police Chief Steve Mazzeo told The Daily Item that investigators will also be looking into the death of a man with whom Miranda Barbour had a 1-year-old child. He would not elaborate.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Venango County's Diane Gramley (AFA of PA) Seems To Be A Scott Lively Wanna Be

Scott Lively, a pastor in Springfield, Mass., is facing an unprecedented lawsuit that alleges he persecuted gays in Uganda, committing a "crime against humanity," even as he takes credit for anti-gay legislation in Russia.

By Tony Dokoupil, Senior Writer, NBC News:

When President Vladimir Putin recently banned “homosexual propaganda” in Russia, he joined sides in a new global culture war: a struggle to stop the march of gay rights abroad even as advocates wave rainbow flags in America. Now, as the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics approach, both sides are bracing for unrest — and an American pastor is taking credit for the law that started it all.

Scott Lively is a hero to some, a demon to others and a joke to still more. From his home in Springfield, Mass., he runs Abiding Truth Ministries, a church dedicated to combating “the homosexual agenda,” and Holy Grounds Coffee Shop, where the faithful gather for java and Jesus. Lively also sermonizes overseas, promoting his books — most notably The Pink Swastika, which traces the Nazi Party to a gay bar — and portraying gay love as a “dark force” in human history responsible for the Inquisition, American slavery and the Holocaust.

Last month a federal judge allowed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit to proceed against Lively that alleges the pastor persecuted gays in Uganda and committed a potential “crime against humanity” — one that contributed to a bill that would have made homosexuality an act punishable by death. And yet the grey-haired 57-year-old has refused to quiet down.

On his blog this month, Lively praised Putin as “the defender of Christian civilization” for signing this summer a ban on information that treats being gay as valid or attractive — and traced the idea to his own tour of Russia in 2006-7. Last week, Lively suggested Russian officials foil gay activists planning to rainbow-bomb the Olympics by flying a rainbow banner over the games so “the global homosexual movement” would be reminded that “the rainbow belongs to God!”

In his first interview since a U.S. district court judge refused to dismiss the case against him, Lively shrugged off the lawsuit, touted his rising global influence and seemed to dare civil rights advocates to launch another assault on him. “Come what may, I will continue to advocate for the Biblical view of family until my final breath,” he pledged, because “we’re talking about civilization — good and evil being played out in the United States and all around the world.”

A global campaign against gay 'disorder'
Lively has reason to be a bit cocky. America may have “fallen to the gays,” he says, but much of the world still fears them and Lively is working to keep it that way.

In Moldova in 2011, according to Human Rights Watch, he helped several cities declare themselves “gay-free zones” and organized an “emergency” campaign to block a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus he met with politicians and pastors, fostering talk of new curbs on gay rights. Every place he goes, Lively says, his goal is to block the open expression of homosexuality, keep discrimination legal and make pro-gay advocacy a crime.

To whip up support for such policies, Lively simply shares his beliefs about gay people: They’re dangerous predators, even killers. And they caught this gay “disorder” through “an evil game of tag,” a chain of abuse in which gays recruit kids into sodomy just as they were once recruited. In this way homosexuality spreads like “a social cancer,” he claims, until nothing remains of the Christian world.

It’s unclear where Lively gets his virulent science, since study after study suggests homosexuality begins with biology not abuse, but his political strategy is easy to trace. It’s an export straight from the American culture wars of the 1990s, when Lively was communications director of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, then the largest anti-gay political group in America. OCA pioneered the idea of criminalizing gay advocacy, convincing more than a dozen Oregon suburbs to forbid anything that may “promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality” — much as Putin has done in Russia.

“Yes, I think I influenced the Russian law,” Lively said. While some gay rights activists still think he’s just a laughingstock, Boris Dittrich, the director of LGBT advocacy for Human Rights Watch, tends to confirm Lively’s claims. Russia was plenty homophobic before Lively’s arrival but the American pastor appears to have given shape to that free-floating hatred, Dittrich said. As he passed through Russia’s regions, Lively met with politicians and bans on homosexual propaganda followed, spreading to more than a half-dozen areas before Putin swept them into a national standard.

Lively — who calls himself the “father” of Uganda’s anti-gay movement — also shared the first sharp details of his work in Eastern Europe and responded to the rise in hate crimes that seems to follow him around the globe.

'It's a war between Christians and homosexuals'
In 2006, Lively served as California state director of the American Family Association in Sacramento and fought the “homosexualization” of public schools. He befriended Alexey Ledyaev, charismatic pastor of New Generation, a Latvian megachurch with more than 200 branches worldwide. Together they founded Watchmen on the Walls, a network of activists who pledged to guard the Kingdom of Christ against the siege of homosexuality — and by fall of that year Lively was on a Watchmen trip to Russia.

He landed in Vladivostok, Russia’s largest port on the Pacific Ocean, boarding a train for a 22-hour journey north to Blagoveshchensk, a river city on the border of China. He recalled feeling “just like Dr. Zhivago! Red velvet curtains, a samovar at the end of each car, passing through endless birch forests.” For 10 days Lively used “Blago” as a hub, shuttling in and out of nearby communities, shouting Paul Revere-like warnings of a gay invasion.

By February 2007 he was back in the States in high spirits, bearing a 45-minute highlight reel that he screened at an OCA reunion in Portland. It repeatedly referred to gays as “terrorists,” showed members of the Watchmen interrupting a pride parade in Riga (with bags of feces, according media reports), and included a cross-national howl from a Latvian member of the Watchmen. “Your generation beat the Nazis, and our country beat the Communists,” the activist said. “Together we will defeat the homosexuals!”

A month or so later, Lively was back on the circuit, speaking at the World Congress of Families conference in Warsaw before hopping to Riga, his base for the next several months. He preached in churches, lectured in universities, took the podium at conferences. He sat down with pro-family leaders, pastors and a few members of parliament.

Old videos from the now-defunct Watchmen website reveal some highlights. A stop in Riga in May 2007, where Lively called gay rights “the most dangerous political movement in the world.” A three-day conference in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia, in August. There Lively addressed an auditorium filled with 1,000 Christians, six ushers on hand to help with security and seating, the stage kitted out to look like a medieval wall. “There is a war that is going on in the world,” Lively said through a translator.

“There is a war that is waging across the entire face of the globe. It’s been waging in the United States for decades, and it’s been waging in Europe for decades. It’s a war between Christians and homosexuals.”  

Suit could decide fight to restore 'godliness to society' 
Regardless of whether Lively inspired Putin’s crackdown, he’s been accused of inspiring violence against gay people. He says he only preaches compassion – “love the sinner, hate the sin,” he likes to say – and although he gets blamed for it he didn’t actually support Uganda’s proposed death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” He believes gays should be pushed from public life, their “recovery” supported in private. And yet where Lively’s message goes, violence seems to follow.

In Oregon in 1992, a same-sex couple died when their house was firebombed during OCA’s campaign to declare homosexuality “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse.” In Sacramento in 2007, a gay man was called a “faggot” and punched to death by a stranger in a park. In Uganda in 2011, the country’s first openly gay man had his skull caved in. And right now in Russia and in the former Soviet states, there’s been a surge in homophobic vigilantism, including a torrent of shaming videos, some depicting gay teens being tortured by skinheads. Lively has not been linked to any of these crimes but we asked: Couldn’t his talk of predatory gays, “good and evil,” and “war” have played a role?

“Wow, that’s a leap,” said Lively, who sees his work as advocacy in the public interest, no different from campaigning against drunk drivers.

Others don’t think it’s a leap. “Words have consequences,” said Mark Potok, an editor at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that gives Lively’s ministry a pin in its national map of “hate groups.”

Pamela Spees, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the group pursuing Lively for alleged “crimes against humanity” in Uganda, said she is prepared to file a second lawsuit related to his work in Russia and the surrounding countries, assuming there’s evidence that Lively was “an architect of the persecutory program” there.

And that’s why the case against Lively is so important, gay-rights activists say. As the Olympics draw nearer and the boycotts and homophobic backlash continue, Putin will be the guy paraded down the world’s front pages and social media feeds. But Lively may be the secret agent to watch.

If he loses his lawsuit he could be prohibited from spreading his message abroad, a terrible precedent for other anti-gay crusaders. However if he wins, he emerges stronger than ever, the self-described “hero” of an expanding fight to restore “godliness to society,” as he puts it – or else “pull as many people as possible into the lifeboat before the ship goes down.”

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Is This What American Family Association Means By Traditional Family Values??

Twisted Mom & Dad's Deviant 'Parenting Plan' Was Plotted Before Kids Were Even Born

by Kiri Blakeley - The Stir - 9/16/13:

This is the most sickening "parenting plan" you can imagine. A couple started a family so that they could rape their own children. Yeah, it doesn't much worse than that. Jonathan and Sarah Adleta have been found guilty of child-sex charges and face many years, possibly life, in prison. The children involved? Their own daughter and son. And possibly the most twisted part of all of it? They reportedly began planning the sexual abuse long before the children were even born.

Sarah, who pled guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor and could serve up to 30 years in prison, reportedly testified that while she was dating her ex-husband, Jonathan, he would discuss sexual situations between fathers and daughters and even said he wanted "daddy-daughter sex." Jonathan reportedly said that he would only marry Sarah if she agreed to his plan.

While this would be enough to make most women run for their lives -- and call 911 on their way out the door -- Sarah went along with it because she wanted to "be with him." And a year after they were married, she gave birth to their daughter.

While it's unfathomable that any woman would agree to this, Sarah reportedly told jurors that she would do whatever it took to be with Jonathan. Because he was just that much of a winner, folks.

Sarah and Jonathan, who is reportedly a former Marine, eventually divorced. You think this would at least get the daughter away from her sick father, but Sarah reportedly continued to allow her ex to sexually abuse their daughter over Skype and during visits.

Sadly, even if Sarah had balked at Jonathan's horrific plan, he was intent on finding a child to victimize. In fact, after his divorce, his new girlfriend allegedly allowed him to abuse her young daughter.

The idea that a woman would willingly give birth to a child so that her child could become prey to a sexual predator is sickening to say the least. Hopefully these two won't see freedom for a very long time, maybe never again. It just goes to show you that giving birth doesn't mean you're a parent.

What could make a woman agree to this?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Former American Family Association Attorney Says The Christian Right Is Paranoid And Perverse

How Homosexuality Ruined The “Religious Right”

By Joseph R. Murray, II

Longshoreman Eric Hoffer recognized that many great American movements were borne of a noble cause, grew up to be a lucrative business, and ended up becoming a racket. Such is the dangerous Catch-22 of public interest politics and such is the tale of America’s Christian Right lobby.

When students of political science study the demise of the Christian Right years from now, the focus will most assuredly be on gay rights.

After the Christian Right tapped out the pro-life issue, the captains of Christian industry needed a new sales pitch to keep the coffers filled. These folks thought they saw the light in 2003 when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared a fundamental right to same-sex marriage.

This decision was a god-send for a Christian right that was always giddy to portray the judiciary as an unelected, out-of-touch super-legislature that imposed its minority will on the majority of the people.

Shortly after Massachusetts made history, all eyes turned to then-San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to permit same-sex couples to say “I do.”

I was on the front lines working with the American Family Association as a staff attorney when Newsom made history in the City by the Bay after he gave clerks the green light to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The Christian right was drooling with delight thinking the maverick mayor had gone off the proverbial cliff. History, however, would show it was the Christian Right that joined Thelma and Louise in the backseat of their convertible.

As a staff attorney, I was able to see firsthand how the Religious Right operated. I first worked with AFA after I was selected to be in the inaugural class of the then Alliance Defense Fund’s Blackstone Fellowship. The Fellowship was designed to select the best and brightest budding Christian lawyers to train them to fight the culture war in courtrooms across America.

Such training did not prepare me for the reality of how the Evangelical “Christian” political machine operated, especially when the battle over marriage erupted.

At the time Newsom and Massachusetts opened a new front in the culture war, polls suggested that opposition to gay rights, especially marriage rights, was a winning issue for the Christian machine. While “Will and Grace” entertained the nation, the concept of marriage equality still generated a lukewarm response.

Moreover, the Christian Right had invested heavily in a propaganda machine that specialized in promulgating unjust stereotypes. Instead of letting the flock see gay couples as the neighbors next door, the Christian Right made it a point to portray all gays with the wildest pictures they could find from the Castro.

It was a brilliant strategy, for if groups like AFA could scare the faithful with pictures that portrayed the gay community in the worst light, it could frame the debate as one of deviancy versus decency. There were two problems with this strategy, though:

First, in order for the campaign to succeed the Right had to forsake the very Christian principles it claimed to be protecting. In typical fashion, a few Ben Franklins made it much easier for them to put profit over principle.

Second, the strategy would only work if the Christian Right could force gays, as well as those Christians that supported them, into the closet. It was the second problem that would result in the demise of the Christian right.

Aside from the hypocritical tactics of these right-wing groups, competition and distrust erupted among the various groups themselves. Though they claimed to be united for a single cause, they often had internal disputes and rivalries, and rather than rally behind winnable legal cases being litigated by their peers, these groups often focused instead on outdoing each other.

Why? Because high profile cases meant high-volume dollars. It was morality driven by money.

When I worked at AFA there was an intense rivalry between the AFA and ADF. There was a belief that ADF was trying to strong-arm the various religious groups under its umbrella so it could control the money and the message. There was a real fear that ADF was poised to steamroll over every Christian Right group, which it largely did.

To demonstrate how paranoid and perverse the Christian Right machine became, I was booted out of ADF’s Blackstone Fellowship because I would not sign a loyalty pledge. Just two years after Blackstone was created, there was concern that ADF was using the images and stories of the Blackstone fellows without their permission and for fundraising unrelated to the Fellowship.

When confronted, ADF demanded that current fellows sign a loyalty pledge or face excommunication. This author, as well as a handful of other principled folks, gladly chose excommunication.

While these largely Evangelical groups fought with each other, there also remained a distrust between Evangelicals and Catholics. During an AFA devotional I attended, the organization’s spokesman talked about his recent mission trip to Spain. Specifically, he stated that mission work was needed in Spain because the country did not have many Christians, just a whole lot of Catholics.

Make no mistake: the Christian right was poised to bring “God’s work” to a whole new level at the beginning of this century, but the dysfunction and distrust ingrained into these groups, their greed, their envy, and their pride, got in the way. Also working against the “gay gold rush” they perceived was the fact that society was changing despite their efforts. Thank God for both of these things.

Recognizing its own colossal failure and the ever-growing acceptance of LGBT people in society, the Christian right is in a race against the clock, fighting against its own irrelevancy.

Look at the lunacy pouring out of the Christian right. Don Wildmon claims to defend marriage, but endorses twice divorced, three times married Newt Gingrich for president. Mat Staver and Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel are out there invoking Jerry Sandusky to support the medieval notion that you can “pray the gay away.”

And, of course, Bryan Fischer is like a drunken uncle at a wedding who must continually be outrageous in hopes that someone will pay attention.

Why is this happening? Because the Christian right doubled down on gay discrimination and lost.

Generations of new Americans are growing up in a nation in which their aunt or uncle is gay or their best friend has gay parents. The issue of homosexuality, thus, is no longer a Biblical billy-club detached from the human concept.

Moreover, scores of Christians from across the nation are tired of this small, but albeit loud, minority defining their faith for them in the public square. This is why the Not All Like That (NALT) Christians Project has the potential to be the final nail in the Christian Right’s coffin.

In order for the Christian Right to survive, it has to have a monopoly on morality. The debate has to be one of “us v. them.” This is how culture wars work.

NALT, however, will be a devastating blow the Christian Right. Frankly, all the videos pouring into NALT re-affirm one basic fact –- the Christian Right no longer can claim to have a monopoly on morality.

If you can be a strong Christian and still affirm the human dignity of gay folks, what relevance is there for groups like AFA? If gays are no longer the boogeyman, why should supporters send checks to fight what they no longer fear?

The answer is that they won’t and I welcome my former colleagues to a Waterloo of their own making. More importantly, I encourage others like me, LGBT and LGBT-affirming Christians from both sides of the political divide, to stand with me and speak in love by contributing videos to the NALT Christians Project. This project isn’t about “us vs. them.” This is about whether Christianity will be a force of division and hatred, or whether the voices of love, acceptance and inclusion will prevail.

Join me in making sure it’s the latter.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New Platform Launched for Christians to Speak out in Favor of LGBT Equality

MEDIA ADVISORY - September 4, 2013

Affirming Christians Directly Challenge the False Idea That all Christians are Anti-Gay, by Proclaiming That we are ‘Not All Like That’

The NALT Christians Project ( was launched today, giving Christians everywhere an opportunity to rise up and proclaim their unconditional love and support for their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends and family members. This new movement, inspired by Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, encourages LGBT-affirming Christians to upload videos that unapologetically express their full acceptance of LGBT people.

This project was created by Christian author John Shore and Truth Wins Out, a non-profit organization that counters religious extremism. It will be an online platform that directly challenges the idea that anti-gay Christians represent all or even most of the Christian faithful. The project kicks-off with a promotional video from author and advocate Dan Savage.

Co-sponsors of the project include: Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Auburn Theological Seminary, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, The Evangelical Network, Faith in America, GLAD Alliance, Many Voices, Methodists in New Directions, and Reconciling Ministries Network.

“We are playing a symphony inspired by Christ’s Great Commandment that all of his followers love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” said NALT co-founder John Shore. “If you’re an LGBT-affirming Christian, there is a seat waiting for you in the orchestra of The NALT Christians Project.”

“The NALT Christians Project aims to inspire Christian LGBT allies to move their support from the shadows into the public square,” said Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director. “Through their NALT videos, Christians will put their values into action, and lead the clarion, Bible-based call for freedom and justice for all people.”

This project will also send a powerful message of encouragement to LGBT youth who are growing up in unsupportive environments.

“This project is designed to reach people like myself when I was sixteen and growing up in a conservative religious community,” said NALT Christians Project co-founder and Truth Wins Out Associate Director Evan Hurst. “I wish I had known about the millions of loving Christians who take Jesus’ teachings seriously, and if this project can help keep LGBT youth from the spiritual turmoil of being convinced they are hell-bound simply for being who they are, then we’ve done our jobs.”

Frequently, well-intentioned progressive Christians approach LGBT people to say high-profile fundamentalist Christians who dominate the airwaves do not speak for them, because they believe in equality for their LGBT brothers and sisters. Dan Savage has dubbed these folks “NALT Christians,” because they often say that they are “not all like that,” meaning they are not anti-gay. Savage and others began telling these well meaning folks, “Don’t tell us you’re not all like that. Tell the National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown. Tell the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins you’re not all like that. Tell the media. Tell your friends in church. Go online and tell the world.” The NALT Christians Project is the embodiment of this critically important idea.

If your organization is interested in co-sponsoring The NALT Christians Project, please contact John Shore,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

American Family Association - To Russia With Love

Russia's Anti-Gay Law 'Expresses Values We've Been Advocating For Years,' Says Bryan Fischer, Spokesperson for the Hate Group known as the American Family Association

from The Huffington Post - 8/27/13:

The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer is once again taking to the airwaves in defense of Russia's controversial anti-gay legislation, Right Wing Watch is reporting.

Describing the "gay propaganda" laws as part of an overall effort to "scramble their way back to some approximation of Christian morality," Fischer said, "They understand that homosexual behavior is a moral evil among teenagers."

"What Russia's done here with this law is they have expressed the values that we have been advocating for years and years and years," he added. Pointing to the fact that many conservative Americans have been "largely silent" on the issue, he then noted, "In my mind, we ought to be celebrating this ... this is public policy we've been advocating, and here's a nation in the world that's actually putting it into practice."

He re-iterated many of the same viewpoints in an Aug. 23 blog post. "There are catastrophic pathologies associated with homosexual behavior among teenagers, and any society that cares about its youth will do everything in its power to steer them away from this self-destructive lifestyle," he wrote. "We spend billions urging teens not to take up cigarette smoking. Let’s start spending billions to urge them not to take up gay sex."

He then concluded, "I say it’s time for us to be more like Russia."

Fischer, whose anti-gay declarations have become a near-weekly staple of his "Focal Point" radio show, has previously defended Russia's anti-gay law.

"We've got plenty of room in our multicultural world for all sorts of different cultural values and trends," he said in a earlier broadcast this month, Right Wing Watch first reported. "Isn't this wonderful what Russia is doing? Let's celebrate diversity and let's support this tradition in the nation of Russia."

New Group Forms for Equality in Venango County

A new group dedicated to achieving equal rights for all in Venango County has formed, establishing a presence on Facebook on August 7, 2013.

Calling itself Equality in Venango County, the group is a non-profit organization that fights for equality and the right to say "I do" in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

It also aims to end discrimination against LGBT youth, students, and adults, with a particular focus on Venango County's working class.

We wish Equality in Venango County strength and success in these important efforts!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anti-Marriage Equality Arguments Are Only Getting Dumber

A Law Student Points Out Some Logical Flaws In The arguments Of Anti-Gay Activists.

By Matt Barnum - The Advocate - August 21 2013:

The arguments against gay marriage have always been dumb. They’re getting dumber.

The hardest job in Washington has got to be antigay activist. It’s hard not to feel sorry for these people who wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and think “How can I work to deny gay people rights today?” It’s hard not to feel bad for these folks. (OK, it’s not that hard, actually.)

The arguments against marriage equality have never been good. But now that the opponents have lost so many battles, now that it's clear the country has irreversibly turned in favor of same-sex marriage, the old arguments — you know, breakdown of the family, being gay's a choice, sexual anarchy, blah blah blah – have to be discarded. Luckily, even dumber arguments — if that’s possible — are waiting to take their place.

Witness Indiana governor Mike Pence's new argument that same-sex marriage stunts economic growth. According to Indiana TV station WFIE, “[Pence] says that many of the 32 states that define traditional marriage in their charters have some of the fastest-growing economies, including Indiana, drawing a correlation between a ban on same-sex marriage and economic development.”

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage, always ready to appropriate an idiotic argument, pounced, featuring Pence’s statement in a favorable blog post and in the organization’s national newsletter.

We have no idea whether it’s true that there exists a positive correlation between anti–marriage equality laws and economic growth. But let’s accept the premise. By this logic, same-sex marriage bans also cause obesity, low education levels, and low median household income levels. Nine of the 10 fattest states in the country have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage; the tenth, West Virginia, prohibits it by statute. Of the 10 states with the fewest college-degree holders, nine have constitutional bans, and again the tenth is good ol’ West Virginia. And all 10 states with the lowest median household income decline to recognize same-sex marriage. So, we suppose, if marriage equality bans help economic growth, they also stunt healthy eating, education, and incomes.

Ah, but NOM is not finished yet. It has another terrifying consequence to add to the list of things that supposedly will (but actually don’t) happen when gay marriage is allowed. This one, though, might actually come true. In that lovely newsletter of theirs, NOM quotes the chilling story told by Mechi Richards of Argentina, where gay marriage has been legal since 2010. As paraphrased by World magazine, Richards described the horrifying consequences that occurred soon after marriage equality passed: “[Richards] said many Argentinians didn’t think the new law would affect them, but passage has led to a completely redesigned sexual education that teaches gender equality and minimizes the traditional family.”

The schools are teaching gender equality? Head for the hills. We thought that gay marriage would mean kids would be taught that gay people are equal (bad enough!), but now they’re trying to brainwash kids into thinking that women are equal too!

Ho-hum, though. These are the types of hilariously awful arguments that pervade the National Organization for Marriage and antigay organizations like it. They are desperate. They know they’ve lost, but they can’t go down without spewing as much nonsense as possible.

President Obama was right when he said that people of goodwill can differ on the question of marriage equality. The problem now is that most of the leaders of the antigay movement lack either goodwill or intellectual seriousness.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Venango County: Teach LGBT History!

LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Icons. Each day in October, a new LGBT Icon is featured with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images and other resources. Learn more at Equality Forum.

LGBT History Is American History

The LGBT community is the only community worldwide that is not taught its history at home, in public schools or in religious institutions. LGBT History Month provides role models, builds community and makes the civil rights statement of our extraordinary national and international contributions.

“LGBT History Month sends an important message to our nation’s teachers, school boards, community leaders, and youth about the vital importance of recognizing and exploring the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in American history."

- George Chauncey
Samuel Knight Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department, Yale University

A Teen’s Brave Response to “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay”

by Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing:

I received the following email today in response to my post I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay. I had decided a couple months ago that it was time to let the whole thing rest, but this response was so powerful, I couldn’t not share it with you all. It was from a woman who simply called herself, “One proud mom.”

Hello Mr. Pearce,

I am the Christian mother of a 15 year old teenage boy and about a month ago he came home from school with a copy of your article “I’m Christian, unless you’re gay”. The teacher gave his class a homework assignment to read it and write a 500 word essay about “what it meant to them”.

He came home and showed me your article and asked me what I thought about it. I read just the title and became furious at his teacher and at you (even though I know you had nothing to do with her handing out the assignment). Anyway, I confiscated it from him and told him he wasn’t to do anything with it till I had a chance to read it first.

And then I got madder and madder as I read it as I felt like it was a direct attack against our beliefs and our Christian religion and that it was promoting homosexuality, a practice that around here is a huge “sin”.

I gave my son an earful about homosexuality and God and told him that he could tell his teacher that he would not be participating and if she had a problem, she could come talk to me and then I threw the article in the trash. My son didn’t say anything just walked into his room and shut the door.

Long story short, a couple hours later it was supper time and I still hadn’t seen him come out of his room. I didn’t expect it to be that big of a deal to him but I went and knocked and told him to come out, he didn’t answer so I opened his door and he wasn’t there, he had left the house and gone somewhere. Of course I got more mad and tried to call him but he sent it to voicemail. I sent him a text and told him he better get home and he was grounded.

This is the text he sent me in return: “I don’t care. I’m at my friends house writing that essay and I’m not coming home till you read it.”

I think you would have seen steam coming out of my ears if you saw me. I started preparing to go talk to the school the next day. I sent a few angry texts to my son that he didn’t answer. I got the article out of the trash so I could take it into the school and get this teacher fired. My anger got a little out of control and while I was sitting there fuming and planning what to do, I got another text from my son that said “Just emailed it. Love, Jacob.”

My son’s name is not Jacob, and it took me a minute to realize that he was talking about your friend Jacob in your article. And when I realized that I suddenly started shaking in fear and anger at what he might be telling me. I started out of control crying because I couldn’t handle having a gay son and what if that’s what he was trying to tell me? After a long time I finally got the courage to go look at my email and see what he had sent. And this is what he wrote.

I am gay and only my one friend knows so far. My mom doesn’t know yet. My dad doesn’t know yet. You didn’t know it when you gave us this homework. I am only 15 years old and I have never felt so alone. My mom and dad always are being angry about gay people and talking about how they are bad and going to hell and they also always talk about how all the gays should be shipped off to their own private island or something so that the rest of us could live God’s commandments in peace.

I have been so scared of them finding out that I’m gay because I know that they would hate me and would want me out of their life and at the same time I can’t keep this secret anymore because it is not something I asked for, never in a million years would I ask to be gay in a town like this where everybody would hate me. And anyways I can’t keep this secret anymore because I’m about to do something crazy like run away or hurt myself or something. I just want to be dead sometimes.

And then you gave us the assignment to write this essay for our homework and I read it like ten times I even skipped lunch and just kept reading it in the bathroom and by the time I went home I decided that maybe I am only 15 years old but maybe this town will change if I can be honest about who I am and maybe my family will change if I can be honest about who I am with them too. I don’t see why I don’t deserve love just like everyone else. I see some crazy stuff that so many people do and people still love them but for some reason everybody around here thinks its ok to hate gays and stuff. And I don’t know really I think I just realize that I don’t want to be Jacob in ten years and still live my life in secret and scared of being hated.

So I go home and I tell my mom to read this handout you gave us and she got so mad at me and started going crazy about how evil gays are and how all of this was just the devil spreading his work and everything else she said. But this time I just got mad myself and I got so mad because I suddenly realize that this is the woman that my whole life made me go to church where they talk about love just like the writer said but she and every other person I pretty much know just hate so many people especially gay people. So I got madder and madder and madder and then I snuck out and came to my friends house to write this essay because its time to stop letting people’s hate stop me from being happy. I mean should I really have to hate my life and want to die because other people are so hating?

And I don’t know what will happen but I am done playing like I’m something I’m not and if my parents don’t love me anymore because of this then I realize that’s not my problem and it will hurt but not as much as the way I hurt right now. I feel like if my mom and dad would just think about things they’d realize that what they always say and how they always hate gays is not what Jesus would do and maybe there is a chance that they will some day love me like Jesus would. I am their kid afterall.

Tonight I am going to send this to my mom and see what she says I guess. I don’t know what will happen but I know that I deserve to be loved just like everybody else does I just hope she thinks so too.

Obviously you can imagine the emotions and thoughts that were going through my head when I read that …

I started crying and couldn’t stop for the longest time. I don’t know why I was crying exactly, just so many emotions came over me. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond. I finally stopped and went and read your article once more only this time I tried to read it through my son’s eyes and the whole thing was so different than it was a couple hours before. By the time I finished I felt as big as an ant and I realized just how much hatred I have in my heart toward others.

You see, Mr. Pearce, you are right. It’s not about what other people do. It’s about whether or not we are loving them. Nothing else matters at all. And it took all of this for that to finally sink in.

I texted my son back that I loved him and left it at that. He came home that night and didn’t try to talk to me about it, I just told him I loved him at least ten times that night and made sure not to talk about anything else. My love for him was the only thing I wanted him to feel and I knew he’d talk to me about it when he was ready.

That was a month ago and in the last month my son and I (his dad lives three states away and still doesn’t know) have grown much closer than we ever were before. We have both stood up against hate several times when we hear it coming from the people around us. You see, where we live people really do have problems “being Christian unless…” But no longer in this home.

I’ve shared your article now with countless people. I have made my sisters read it. I talked about its message to my parents. I sent it to my friends and neighbors. And I’ve had some people get really upset by it, but a change is starting to happen around here and it’s because one teenage boy finally had the courage to stand against what he felt was wrong. He believed he could make a change. And I’ll tell you right now, it makes me happy to see him so happy. I never knew how unhappy he was until I could finally see how happy he could be.

So thank you. I know this is long, but I thought you’d like to know what your article has done in this little town we live in. And it’s just the beginning.

Sincerely yours, one proud mom.


If you think you can’t make a difference, you are wrong. If you think you are too old or too young to make change happen, you are wrong. If you think that somebody else will do it first, you are wrong. I think this letter is proof enough of that.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

Quick note: The image used in this post is stock photography and is not intended to be presented as an actual photo of the boy in this letter.

Also, after much debate, I’ve decided to disable the comments section of this post. At least for now. The discussion that started when I first published this post was poignant and powerful. It was constructive. And while some great discussion has still been happening, a lot of hateful, bigoted, and angry discussion had taken over. So, in order to keep the spirit of the post, I felt it best to let the comment section rest for a while. Thanks for understanding. If you’ve felt inspired by what you’ve read, thank you for sharing this blog post.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On The Right Side Of History In Braddock Pennsylvania

from the Huffington Post - August 6, 2013:

The mayor of Braddock, Penn. performed his county's first gay wedding Aug. 5 in spite of the statewide ban on same-sex marriage.

Calling Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act "a fundamentally unjust piece of legislation," Braddock Mayor John Fetterman said he was happy to marry John Kandray and Bill Gray, who have been together for 11 years and had obtained a marriage license in Montgomery County, CBS Pittsburgh is reporting.

The ceremony took place around 9:30 p.m. on Monday in front of the couple's family and friends, who had gathered at Fetterman's home.

“We pay the same taxes, we do everything the same, but we don’t have the same rights,” Kandray is quoted as saying. “It felt like, you know what, let’s stand up for ourselves and do this."

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania officials have filed a lawsuit alleging that D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County, violated state laws when he began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last month, the Associated Press reported.

"I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law," Hanes said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. More than 60 marriage licenses have reportedly been issued to same-sex couples by Montgomery County so far.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Next Civil Rights Frontier

New York Times Editorial - July 31, 2013:

Federal civil rights officials reached an important settlement late last month with a California school district accused of discriminating against a transgender student by denying him equal access to educational programs and activities. Under the agreement, the Arcadia Unified School District in California will revise its policies and ensure that the student, who was born female but has since assumed a male name and identity, is treated fairly and like other male students. The agreement should be required reading for school officials at all levels nationally.

The case involved a child who was anatomically female but began to identify as a boy at an early age, assuming a male first name and wearing boys’ clothes. By the end of fifth grade, the student’s classmates accepted the transformation, but the school district would not let the matter go. Despite warnings from experts that the student should be treated as a boy in all settings, school officials singled him out in ways that brought unwanted attention and made the gender transformation much more difficult. He was given a separate dressing area for physical education class — which isolated him from friends — and assigned to a distant, cross-campus restroom, the use of which required him to miss class time.

On a camping trip in 2011, the social highlight of the seventh-grade year, the school district refused to let the student sleep in a cabin with male friends, some of whom knew his history, even though the friends had requested him as a cabin mate. He was forced instead to stay in a separate cabin with one of his parents, which both he and his parents found disheartening.

Just before the trip, his parents filed civil rights complaints with the Justice Department and the Department of Education. As the investigation progressed, the district agreed to make sure the student had access to facilities designated for male students at all district-sponsored activities and to revise its antidiscrimination policies so as to prohibit gender-based discrimination.

The agreement ends a painful episode for the student and his family. It may also be the beginning of a more welcoming future for transgender students.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gay Marriage in the Year 100 AD

by Annalee Newitz:

Gay marriage sounds like an ultra-contemporary idea. But almost twenty years ago, a Catholic scholar at Yale shocked the world by publishing a book packed with evidence that same-sex marriages were sanctioned by the early Christian Church during an era commonly called the Dark Ages.

Illustration of Serge and Bacchus, in a same-sex union.

John Boswell (below) was a historian and religious Catholic who dedicated much of his scholarly life to studying the late Roman Empire and early Christian Church. Poring over legal and church documents from this era, he discovered something incredible. There were dozens of records of church ceremonies where two men were joined in unions that used the same rituals as heterosexual marriages. (He found almost no records of lesbian unions, which is probably an artifact of a culture which kept more records about the lives of men generally.)

Bolstered by this evidence, Boswell published a book in 1994, the year before his death from AIDS, called Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. The book comes out next month for the first time in a digital edition. It was an instant lightening rod for controversy, drawing criticism from both the Catholic Church and sex pundit Camille Paglia. Given the Church's present-day views on gay marriage, these detractors argued, Boswell's history seemed like wishful thinking.

But it wasn't. Boswell had actually begun his research back in the 1970s, and published an equally controversial work in 1980 called Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. His Same-Sex Unions book refined and expanded a lot of what he'd learned over a lifetime of research into primary sources in scattered libraries and archives.

How could these marriages have been forgotten by history? One easy answer is that — as Boswell argues — the Church reframed the idea of marriage in the 13th century to be for the purposes of procreation. And this slammed the door on gay marriage. Church scholars and officials worked hard to suppress the history of these marriages in order to justify their new definition.

Of course, history is more complicated than that. Boswell claims that part of the problem is that we define marriage so differently today that it's almost impossible for historians to recognize 1800-year-old gay marriage documents when they see them. Often, these documents refer to uniting "brothers," which at the time would have been a way of describing same-sex partners whose lifestyles were tolerated in Rome. Also, marriages over a millennium ago were not based on procreation, but wealth-sharing. So "marriage" sometimes meant a non-sexual union of two people's or families' wealth. Boswell admits that some of the documents he found may refer simply to non-sexual joining of two men's fortunes — but many also referred to what today we would call gay marriage.

Legal scholar Richard Ante wrote a law journal article explaining that Boswell's book could even be used as evidence for the legality of gay marriage, since it shows evidence that definitions of marriage have changed over time. He describes some of Boswell's evidence of these same-sex rites in the early first millennium:

The burial rite given for Achilles and Patroclus, both men, was the burial rite for a man and his wife. The relationships of Hadrian and Antinous, of Polyeuct and Nearchos, of Perpetua and Felicitas, and of Saints Serge and Bacchus, all bore resemblance to heterosexual marriages of their times. The iconography of Serge and Bacchus was even used in same-sex nuptial ceremonies by the early Christian Church.

The main piece of evidence that these same-sex unions were marriages is that they so closely resembled heterosexual ceremonies. Literary scholar Bruce Holsinger describes Boswell's detailed stories of same-sex ceremonies:

[Boswell] cleverly posits the development of heterosexual and same-sex nuptial offices as a single phenomenon, tracking the growth of the latter from "merely a set of prayers " in the earlier Middle Ages to its flowering as a "full office" by the twelfth century that involved "the burning of candles, the placing of the two parties' hands on the Gospel, the joining of their right hands, the binding of their hands . . . with the priest's stole, an introductory litany crowning, the Lord's Prayer, Communion, a kiss, and sometimes circling around the altar." Boswell devotes a full chapter to comparing these rituals with their heterosexual counterparts, revealing a number of extraordinary similarities between the two; in several appendixes totaling almost 100 pages, he has compiled numerous examples of the documents themselves (including heterosexual matrimony ceremonies and adoption rituals for comparison) to let "readers . . . judge for themselves," as he puts it. (Boswell translates most of the ceremonies, so general readers won't have to worry about brushing up on their Old Church Slavonic.)

Were these same-sex unions in the middle ages the same thing as today's gay marriages? Probably not. People at the time may not have viewed two men forming a union as anything out of the ordinary. Marriage itself meant something different thousands of years ago, and social taboos against homosexuality had not yet solidified. Still, in Boswell's work, we find records of institutions where same-sex couples were honored with the same ceremonies that opposite-sex couples enjoyed. Two men could live as "brothers," sharing wealth, home, and family. And yes, they could love each other, too.

Though Boswell died before his country began to allow similar kinds of unions, he could draw hope from knowing something that most people did not. Even the most fundamental kinds of human relationships change over time. Those who have been banished today may be blessed tomorrow — just as they were over a thousand years ago.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sen. Ted Cruz Pushing Religious Right Lies About Marriage Equality

by Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way - The Huffington Post - July 23, 2013:

Right-wing media and elected officials play a crucial role in moving fictional manufactured "crises" and false "threats" to liberty from the imaginations of religious right leaders into the media and public airwaves where they are treated with a credibility they do not deserve. Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz has just given us a great example.

Cruz was in Iowa last week meeting with a group of conservative pastors organized by Christian-nation advocate David Lane. During that visit, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network asked Cruz about conservative fears that marriage equality would lead to preachers being charged with hate speech for preaching against homosexuality -- Brody has just posted Cruz's response.

Cruz made no mention of First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and religion. Instead, he said that "Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages" and who "preach biblical truths on marriage" have been prosecuted in other countries, and added, "I think there is no doubt that the advocates who are driving this effort in the United States want to see us end up in that same place."

Cruz is lying about advocates for marriage equality, who have universally recognized that the First Amendment protects the rights of clergy to preach their beliefs about homosexuality and to refuse to give their religious blessing to same-sex couples (the same way it has always allowed clergy to choose not to marry divorced couples or interfaith couples).

Religious right leaders made the same ridiculous claim about including gays in federal hate crimes laws -- that it would lead to preachers being dragged from their pulpits for preaching that homosexuality is a sin. Of course, since the law's passage in 2009, there has been no shortage of anti-gay preaching, and no cases of preachers being tossed into jail for their beliefs. Early in the Obama administration, Right Wing Watch debunked another phony threat to religious freedom that was concocted by a Religious Right legal group, promoted in right-wing media, and then picked up by members of Congress.

These bogus charges have a toxic effect on our public discourse by convincing millions of Americans that gays -- or President Obama -- are out to destroy faith and freedom. Politicians like Ted Cruz who spread this poison should be held accountable for their irresponsible actions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Waiting For An Apology From The American Family Association Of Pennsylvania

Truth Wins Out Commends Former Exodus Lobbyist Randy Thomas For Apologizing to the LGBT Community

Ex-Gay Activist Says He's Sorry For The Hurt and Harm He Caused While At Exodus

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Truth Wins Out commended Exodus International's former political lobbyist, Randy Randy Thomas older Thomas, today after he apologized to the LGBT community for inflicting harm and increasing hate during his tenure at Exodus International, which was the largest "ex-gay" organization until it shut down last month. Thomas is the fourth major "ex-gay" leader to apologize in the past two years.

"We are gratified that Randy Thomas has begun the process of taking personal responsibility for his key role in damaging the lives of many innocent people," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "He is a key player in this industry and his admission will help keep future generations from walking down the treacherous ex-gay path."

According to Thomas in his apology:

"I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus' commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I'm disappointed in myself. Please forgive me."

"I was, in a sense, attracted to this kind of power and allowed my conscience to be numbed so I could have a seat at their table. In the name of trying to positively affect Christian leaders, I willingly became one of their pawns. Again, I was selfish and prideful. Please forgive me."

In his apology, Thomas specifically expressed regret for working to further the career of Andrew Comiskey, the head of Desert Stream Ministries and one of the vilest "ex-gay" activists in the industry. In the past, Comiskey has claimed that "Satan delights in homosexual perversion" and whose "ministry" has continually been shadowed by allegations of sexual abuse committed by staff members.

"Randy's realization that folks like Andrew Comiskey are chief instigators of hatred against LGBT people echoes Alan Chambers' earlier reference to many anti-gay activists as 'vipers,'" said Truth Wins Out Associate Director Evan Hurst. "As a movement, the anti-gay forces in the United States and around the world are known, not for their Christian love, but for the fact that their grace extends only to those who submit to their orthodoxy and supremacy without question. The second the human heart enters the equation, the Religious Right bare its fangs. We applaud Randy for taking this important step to start the healing and prevent future harm to LGBT people."

Thomas, a rising star in the "ex-gay" industry, began his career by leading Living Hope ministry in Dallas. He Randy Thomas was soon recruited as Vice President of Communications, and moved to Exodus International's Orlando headquarters. Thomas eventually took on the role of chief lobbyist, where he reached his pinnacle in 2006, when he and Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, attended a White House meeting with President George W. Bush to push for the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Thomas fought tenaciously against the successful inclusion of sexual orientation in the federal hate crime law. He appeared in an infamous newspaper ad under the inflammatory headline, "Hate crime laws say we were more valuable as homosexuals than we are now as former homosexuals." He was also a key speaker at Focus on the Family's ex-gay road show, Love Won Out.

While Thomas did not come out as gay, his apology was a good first step. He also wrote on Truth Wins Out's website that, "I will be sharing more about my thoughts concerning what has happened, personally, and from my perspective in the movement."

In the past two years, Alan Chambers, John Paulk, John Smid, and now Randy Thomas have all issued apologies, rocking the "ex-gay" industry to its core. Unfortunately, new groups like Restored Hope Network and Voice of the Voiceless have risen to fill the vacuum. The recent apologies, however, undermine the credibility of these new "ex-gay" organizations and complicate their efforts, says TWO.

Truth Wins Out is a nonprofit organization that fights anti-LGBT extremism. TWO specializes in turning information into action by organizing, advocating and fighting for LGBT equality.

"What Saved Me Is That I Fought Back" -- Born This Way and The Fight for Global Equality

More people are imprisoned each year for homosexuality in Cameroon than any other country in the world.

With intimate access to the lives of two young gay Cameroonians, Born This Way sketches a vivid portrait of day-to-day life in modern Africa.

Lyrical imagery, devastating homophobia, glimpses of American culture and a hidden-camera courtroom drama coalesce into a story of what is possible in the global fight for equality.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Episcopal Bishop, Right Rev. Sean W. Rowe, Has A Change Of Heart On Anti-LGBT Bigotry & Discrimination

The Right Reverend Sean W. Rowe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, recently published an article in the Erie Times-News about the enlightening of attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

While this advancement in Rowe's thinking is welcome, it must be noted that when he was Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Franklin, Pa., he was also a member of the Franklin Area School District Board, the same school board that sat in silence, cast a blind-eye, even protected a high school administrator who was well-known in the community for the racist and homophobic ways in which he targeted and abused students.

Rowe has yet to account for his silence, let alone make amends for the suffering that he and his school board colleagues enabled in the Franklin Area School District.

Here is his current "reflection" on the issues:

Welcome LGBT People as Children of God

Right Rev. Sean W. Rowe - Erie Times-News - July 20, 2013:

Last week, Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced that she will not defend the state in a suit that challenges the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage.

Her decision, resulting from the recent Supreme Court decision that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, is just the latest indication that our society's thinking about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their unions is changing rapidly.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, and more than a quarter of Americans live in those jurisdictions. According to a June ABC News/Washington Post poll, 58 percent of Americans support marriage equality. That number climbs to 70 percent when Americans born after 1980 are surveyed, according to the Pew Research Center.

Civil marriage and religious marriage are distinct institutions, but our attitudes toward one influence our thinking about the other. So for many people of faith, these headlines about civil same-sex marriage equality require us to look at sacred traditions and texts with fresh eyes.

Many of us remember when issues of human sexuality were off-limits for discussion in our congregations. And sadly, far too many of us are familiar with the discrimination, fear and violence that LGBT people have suffered while people of faith turned a blind eye or, worse yet, acted as perpetrators.

Today it is possible for us to view same-sex relationships differently. Across our communities, we see the goodness and holiness of same-sex couples in committed, lifelong relationships. Same-sex couples and their families are blessings to their communities, their churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, and to their neighbors and friends. Just like opposite-sex couples, their love for one another draws them more clearly into fidelity and service to the world and allows all of us who know them to see the boundless love of God more clearly.

We can also see that our civic life benefits when same-sex couples have the dignity and legal protection that opposite-sex couples have always enjoyed. Same-sex couples, just like their opposite-sex friends and neighbors, work hard, raise children, volunteer for good causes and pay taxes. Erie would be poorer without its LGBT residents, and we need to stand against discrimination that makes their lives less safe or secure.

For too long, same-sex couples have had to live without the acknowledgment -- from their civic communities or religious congregations -- that they are both productive citizens and signs of the goodness of God's creation and love for the world. Now the growing civil acceptance of marriage equality can help people of faith to tear the scales from our eyes, testify to what we see, and fully welcome LGBT people as children of God and sisters and brothers in faith.

Reflections is a column by religious leaders in the region. The Right Rev. Sean W. Rowe is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, 145 W. Sixth St.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Future of Same-Sex Marriage

The New York Times Editorial - July 14, 2013:

As historic and welcome as we found the Supreme Court’s two recent decisions on same-sex marriage, they served to emphasize the lingering inequality for millions of gay and lesbian Americans who do not live in the 13 states that enforce the right of all adult Americans to marry the person of their choosing.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, is standing by his 2012 veto of a measure to allow gay couples to marry and is refusing to free Republican legislators to follow their conscience on an override vote. Mr. Christie is imposing a large ideological tax on thousands of couples and their families whose interests he is supposed to protect. He is depriving them of federal benefits, which their tax payments help underwrite.

Certainly, the Supreme Court propelled the nation toward greater equality in late June with two 5-to-4 rulings that restored same-sex marriage in California and struck down the central provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, the dreadful 1996 law that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states that permit it.

The Defense of Marriage Act ruling struck a blow against injustice, but it also accentuated the unfairness to same-sex couples who would like to get married but live in states that do not permit it and therefore cannot take the same advantage of more than 1,000 federal benefits available to other couples (unless they get married in one of the states where same-sex marriage is legal). By disposing of the California case on narrow procedural grounds, the Supreme Court avoided the necessary reckoning about the fundamental violation of equal protection created by state laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. It perpetuated a mean and irrational patchwork in which duly wed couples may not be considered married when they cross state borders.

Eliminating that unfair system will require a multipronged effort — to add more states to the list of 13 that permit same-sex marriage and to challenge remaining state laws that violate the standards of equal protection as the Defense of Marriage Act did. Last Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a challenge to a Pennsylvania law that allows marriage only between a man and a woman and rejects other states’ marriage equality laws.

Brought on behalf of 23 plaintiffs, the lawsuit is among the first of an expected wave of new cases around the country that could eventually return the issue to the Supreme Court. These suits aim to build on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, including his insight that the federal government’s refusal to recognize some marriages denied married same-sex couples a “status of immense import” and deprived children of “the integrity and closeness of their own family.”

The same can be said of denying gay couples the right to marry in the first place, a cause that is also the object of lobbying and organizing efforts to achieve more victories in state legislatures and at the ballot box. In just the past year, six states legalized same-sex marriage though the political process. Legislatures are being pressed in three other states that are likely to follow suit: New Jersey, Hawaii and Illinois. In Oregon, an effort to reverse a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage through a November 2014 ballot measure is under way. Challenges to similar bans in Nevada, Colorado and Ohio could be in store for November 2016.

The opposition is not sitting still. Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, a Republican, has urged the Legislature to approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage so it can be put before voters next year. Given the rapidly expanding acceptance of same-sex marriage, we hope that getting Indiana voters to approve the shabby measure will prove harder than Mr. Pence thinks.

In Washington, the Obama administration is moving with commendable diligence and speed to extend benefits like health care, life insurance and immigration rights to gay and lesbian married couples. We took special satisfaction from the memo sent out by the chief administrative officer of the Republican-led House informing all 435 representatives and their staff members in all 50 states that they have 60 days to enroll their same-sex spouses for benefits like vision, dental and long-term care insurance and survivors’ annuities.

House Republicans spent millions of taxpayer dollars on private lawyers’ fees to defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s indefensible discrimination when the Obama administration decided it would no longer do so.

Even now, though, there is a serious risk that legally married individuals will lose out on valuable Social Security and veterans’ benefits because language in the applicable statutes seems to determine whether couples are married based on where they live rather than where their marriage was celebrated.

The Justice Department should be exploring every legal route around that, but there should be no need for straining. A newly reintroduced bill would fulfill the letter and spirit of the Defense of Marriage Act ruling by ensuring that the elderly, veterans who risked their lives for their country and others are not excluded from federal benefits even if they live in states where their marriages are not recognized.

Monday, July 8, 2013

U.S. Religious Conservatives LOVE Authoritarianism When It Validates Their Anti-Gay Extremism

by David Crary, Associated Press - July 7, 2013:

As the hub of the Soviet Union, Russia was reviled for rights abuses by many U.S. conservatives during the Cold War. Now some are voicing support and admiration as Russian authorities crack down on gay-rights activism.

The latest step drawing praise from social conservatives is a bill signed into law Sunday by President Vladimir Putin that would impose hefty fines for holding gay pride rallies or providing information about the gay community to minors.

"You admire some of the things they're doing in Russia against propaganda," said Austin Ruse, president of the U.S.-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. "On the other hand, you know it would be impossible to do that here."

Ruse, whose institute is seeking accreditation at the United Nations, plans to travel to Russia this summer to meet with government officials and civic leaders.

"We want to let them know they do in fact have support among American NGOs (non-governmental organizations) on social issues," he said.

Among others commending Russia's anti-gay efforts was Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.

"Russians do not want to follow America's reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth," LaBarbera said on his website.

In a sign of Russia's evolving stature among some U.S. social conservatives, the Illinois-based World Congress of Families plans to hold its eighth international conference at the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses in Moscow next year. Past conferences in Europe, Mexico and Australia have brought together opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage from dozens of countries.

"The Kremlin used to be a no-no for conservatives," said Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress. "We're going to redeem that building."

The website for the September 2014 conference declares that Russia, "with its historic commitment to deep spirituality and morality, can be a hope for the natural family supporters from all over the world."

Jacobs, in an interview, drew a link between Russia's disapproval of homosexuality and its worries about a population decline.

"They've got a problem with marriage rates and fertility, and it doesn't help if you're encouraging non-reproductive behavior," he said.

Abortion remains legal in Russia through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — a contrast to the general view of most U.S. social conservatives that abortion should be outlawed. However, the current abortion law — passed in 2011 — is more restrictive than its predecessor.

There's little doubt that Russians, overall, are far less supportive of gay rights than Americans. According to a Pew Research Center survey released June 4, only 16 percent of Russians said homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 60 percent in the U.S., and 80 percent or higher in Canada, Spain and Germany. However, there's less support for gay rights in some Eastern European countries, and even in Western Europe the issue can fuel conflict, as evidenced by recent clashes in France between far-right protesters and police over a new gay-marriage law.

The Obama administration has said it would make gay rights an important part of its foreign policy, raising the possibility that countries viewed as discriminating against gays could suffer consequences.

Secretary of State John Kerry outlined this approach on June 19 at a gay pride event at the State Department. He did not mention Russia by name, though he spoke disapprovingly of "anti-propaganda laws in Eastern Europe" that are targeting gay-rights demonstrators.

"We just have to keep standing up for tolerance and for diversity," Kerry said.

The Russian bill has been assailed by gay-rights and human-rights groups in the U.S.

"The admiration of some American conservatives for the repressive Russian policies regarding gay rights are quite simply the words of snake-oil salesmen," said Roberta Sklar of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

"They have lost their footing on U.S. soil and are trying to breathe life into a dying ideology abroad," she said.

Two other groups, the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Watch, have called on the International Olympic Committee to speak out against the bill as Russia makes final preparations to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year.

"This draft law is clearly incompatible with the Olympic Charter's promotion of 'human dignity,' as well as a blatant violation of Russia's international legal obligations to guarantee nondiscrimination," Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the IOC.

Stefano Gennarini, a colleague of Austin Ruse's at Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, suggested in a blog post that criticisms of the bill in the West were "hyperbole" and defended it as a reasonable effort to protect children.

"Russians have consistently denied homosexual groups parade permits, sparing its children and the public at large the ludicrous and disturbing behavior on show in the squares and streets of Europe and America," Gennarini wrote

He characterized the bill's proposed fines as a tax on public displays of affection by homosexuals, adding that "$155 is hardly unmanageable for homosexuals who want to kiss in public," he wrote.

Gennarini, in an interview, said it would be "imprudent" for U.S. diplomats to criticize Russia's efforts to curtail gay-rights activism. He said people in other regions — notably Africa and the Islamic world — might look to the Russia as a positive example when considering laws of their own.

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts-based evangelical lawyer and activist, conducted a 50-city speaking tour of Russia in 2007, and says the current bill reflects policies that he advocated at the time.

At the end of his tour, Lively released a "Letter to the Russian People," and he redistributed it this month after the parliament vote.

"The purpose of my visit was to bring a warning about the homosexual political movement which has done much damage to my country," he wrote in the letter. "This is a very fast-growing social cancer that will destroy the family foundations of your society if you do not take immediate, effective action to stop it."

Lively advocated training therapists in the techniques of helping gay people "recover" from same-sex attraction and he urged Russia to criminalize the public advocacy of homosexuality.

"Russia could become a model pro-family society," he wrote. "If this were to occur, I believe people from the West would begin to emigrate to Russia in the same way that Russians used to emigrate to the United States and Europe."

Lively has been sued in U.S. federal court by a Uganda-based gay-rights group, accusing him of persecuting gays in that East African country.

The suit — which Lively is seeking to have dismissed — contends that he was a key figure in consultations in Uganda that produced tough anti-gay legislation in 2009. The initial version of the bill called for the death penalty in some cases of gay sex, although the author of the measure — which remains pending — says he has removed the death penalty provision.

Lively said he would like to see efforts in the U.S. to discourage all sexual activity outside of marriage, but doubted efforts to restrict gay activism could make headway here.

"Russians, even after glasnost, are comfortable with an authoritarian style," he said. "That wouldn't work in the United States."