Monday, February 25, 2008

Pier 40 Update

For the past year, FIERCE (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community) has fought for a community center to serve primarily Queer youth of color to be included in plans to develop the Piers.

On March 27th 2008, Hudson River Park Trust announced that the Related Companies' proposed mega-entertainment complex for Pier 40, known by many, as 'Vegas-on-the-Hudson' was no longer being considered. Related Companies wanted a 49-year lease but HRPT can legally offer only a 30-year lease.

Rather than accept the remaining proposal that was submitted during the RFP process, the Trust instead, made a formal decision to give the Camp Group, Urban Dove, and Pier 40 Partnership 90 days to come up with a viable joint proposal.

Camp Group is a private corporation owned by Benerofe Properties. It's proposal contrasted with 'Vegas on the Hudson' in that it emphasized athletics, education, and maintaining the community’s long-term pier parking. It would augment sports facilities, while adding space for high school and college academic programs. The pier’s existing sports fields would be kept where they are now in the central courtyard rather than moved to the roof as has been suggested by others. Urban Dove, a local nonprofit group helping students through athletics and other programs, supports the Camp Out proposal.

The Pier 40 Partnership has been seeking to present its own separate more community-friendly option known as Pier 40 Park -- if HPRT would reopen the RFP process.

If the groups cannot draft a suitable proposal, the HRPT could still go to Albany and inquire about a 49-year lease on Pier 40, which would bring Related back into play.

Queer Justice League will be actively working with the main players involved in Pier 40 development to help ensure a community center primarily serving Queer youth of color we be included in the final plan. Anyone interested in assisting in this effort should contact Joey Nelson via email at or phone - 973-412-7743 / 973-464-0112 cell.
Snubbed by NYC Pols, HRC Answers Its Critics
Gay City News

Protesters from the Radical Homosexual Agenda were a lively part of Saturday night's picket line outside the HRC dinner.

Faced with a boisterous picket line that drew a crowd of more than 50 and with the absence of every lesbian, gay, and bisexual elected official from New York City -- and nearly every other prominent city Democrat -- Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, used his keynote address at the group's annual Midtown Manhattan dinner to answer critics who fault it for going along with a version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that does not include protections for transgendered Americans.

The non-inclusive version of ENDA passed the House of Representatives last November 7 by a vote of 235-184. The measure awaits action in the Senate, but President George W. Bush has sent strong signals he would veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

"I understand and I hear every day that some members of our community are feeling forgotten or left behind. It is easy to understand why," Solmonese told a crowd approaching 1,000 in the ballroom of the Hilton on February 23. But he also said, "We have to overlook our differences and we have got to see instead of our individual wants and immediate desires... a vision for the America that we all want to live in."

As originally introduced after the 2006 elections, ENDA included protections based on gender identity and expression as well as sexual orientation, but in late September out gay Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts, one of the bill's key sponsors, announced that it would not clear the House with the transgender protections. Even as more than 300 LGBT groups nationwide demanded that the measure be pulled or defeated if there was no gender identity language, HRC at first said it neither supported nor opposed the revised bill and then on the eve of the floor vote urged House members to vote for it.

In his toughest volley against some in the LGBT community who argue that HRC has lost its right to lead the battle on ENDA, Solmonese suggested it is others who have left the field.

"I have to ask myself: When did we all become so impatient? When did we say to ourselves, okay that civil rights thing, I'll give it a year, maybe two, then I'm done," he said. "Let me be very clear: No, we are not done. We are in the grueling, blinding middle of this fight and the middle of this fight is the hardest part."

Having stated HRC's commitment to delivering hate crimes and job protections -- as well as marriage rights -- for all members of the LGBT community, Solmonese said, "Some of us may want to stand back or check out, but there is no standing back. There is no checking out. Because sometimes -- and I know this is frustrating -- the fight for our rights feels like hell, but as Winston Churchill so aptly put it, 'When you are going through hell the most important thing is to keep going.'"

As guests arrived at the Hilton, a colorful gathering of protesters, many carrying large pink placards in the shape of a hand giving HRC the finger, and backed by a spirited drum corps, stood on Sixth Avenue denouncing the group's posture on ENDA.

"Time and time and time again, HRC ignores the community and ignores the wishes of local community groups," said Allen Roskoff, a key organizer of the boycott and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club. Roskoff explained that his club is demanding more that just the restoration of gender identity language in the federal nondiscrimination bill.

"Jim Owles is asking members of Congress not to support ENDA in any form," he said. "We should revert to the effort originated by Bella Abzug and Ed Koch to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression."

Abzug and Koch, as Manhattan representatives in Congress in the early 1970s, introduced the 1964 Act amendment as a way to give gays and lesbians nondiscrimination protection in housing, credit, and public accommodations, in addition to employment. Years later, HRC and Frank originated the more limited ENDA approach to getting anti-bias legislation through Congress.

Roskoff pointed out that Bill Bradley, in his 2000 challenge to Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination, suggested amending the Civil Rights Act, rather than adopting ENDA, "but was shot down by Barney Frank and HRC."

Not all the protesters on hand agreed with Roskoff on the idea of broadening the ENDA effort to include protections for more than just employment. Asked about the possibility of amending the 1964 bill, Dan Tietz, a former president of the Brooklyn Independent Democrats, an LGBT political club, said, "We would love that, but not today. If you can't get a trans-inclusive bill passed, there would probably be only five supporters in the House for amending the Civil Rights Act."

Roskoff said he's chatted preliminarily with several House members about his idea and that his club will be sending a formal letter to all New York Democratic representatives this week to urge a rethinking on ENDA.

Jim Owles and Lambda protesters were joined by members of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City.Some protesters focused on more than simply the strategic issues involved in enacting nondiscrimination legislation. The Radical Homosexual Agenda, which provided the drum corps as well as many of the bodies for the picket line, distributed flyers criticizing the corporate policies of several major HRC corporate sponsors. The flier argued, "HRC isn't just derailing the needs of the majority of the queer community. They're also narrowing our vision of what queer relationships can be."

The crowd repeatedly returned to the chant, "What do we want? Liberation. Fuck that assimilation."

One elected official who joined the protest was Queens City Councilman Hiram Monterrate, there at the invitation of the Jim Owles Club. Roskoff lauded the many other elected officials who, he said, "took a big step" in boycotting a dinner they typically attend.

In fact, of numerous elected officials who in past years attended but were not there this time, only Micah Kellner, an openly bisexual East Side Democratic assemblyman, attributed his absence to the boycott. Others insisted, on the record, that they had scheduling conflicts, though Kellner's statement to Gay City News and off-the-record comments by staff members of several elected officials, pointed to a conscious effort to avoid the HRC event. Kellner was among those that dinner officials from the stage announced as being on hand, but this reporter did not see him, and when reached by telephone the assemblyman said, "I was not there. I boycotted like everyone else. And I was really quite annoyed that they put my name on their press release. I phoned them late yesterday to make clear I was not coming."

Christine Quinn, the out lesbian speaker of the City Council who addressed the HRC dinner in past years, attributed her absence to "scheduling conflicts." In an email statement to Gay City News, a spokesperson for Quinn added, "However, the Speaker has also made clear that she was very disappointed that the action taken by Congress with the Employment and Non-Discrimination Act did not include gender identity. Moreover, the Speaker is stunned that the Human Rights Campaign is penalizing those Congressmembers who support a pro-LGBT agenda, and who voted against the Act because it didn't include transgenders. The Speaker applauds her colleagues from New York -- Congressmembers Clarke, Nadler, Towns, Velazquez, and Weiner -- for their stand."

None of the three Democrats mentioned as likely 2009 mayoral candidates -- Quinn, Congressman Anthony Weiner, or city Comptroller William Thompson -- attended the dinner.

Quinn's lesbian colleague on the Council, Lower East Side Democrat Rosie Mendez was also absent, as were out gay and lesbian Democratic legislators Senator Tom Duane of Chelsea, and Assemblymembers Deborah Glick of the Village and Matt Titone of Staten Island.

As late as February 22, HRC had gay Upper West Side Democrat Daniel O'Donnell, who steered the marriage equality bill to passage in the Assembly last summer, slated on their program to present the group's community service award to Marriage Equality New York, but that same day O'Donnell's office told Gay City News that he too had a scheduling conflict.

At a dinner which has been addressed in past years by Senator Schumer, among many, there were no more than two members of Congress on hand. Upstate Democrat John Hall was there, and HRC announced that Brooklyn's Yvette D. Clarke was also in attendance. Clarke was among the seven Democrats who voted against ENDA in protest of the lack of trans protections, and Gay City News has not yet been able to confirm that she was in fact at the Hilton Saturday night.

Several Democratic officials from Long Island, upstate, New Jersey, and Connecticut did attend the dinner, and the job of presenting Marriage Equality's award fell to Jason Bartlett, a freshman Democratic state representative in Connecticut who came out publicly just four days before the dinner.

A press release from Marriage Equality New York (MENY) about its award noted that "HRC's stance on ENDA is clearly not in-line with our inclusive mission and disappoints those who believe we cannot leave anyone behind" and that the group "has ALWAYS been trans-inclusive and has always stood on the right side of this civil rights fight."

In accepting the award, the group's deputy executive director, Ron Zacchi, said, "MENY feels for our transgender brothers and sisters protesting outside, as we have often been the people protesting outside because incremental changes were accepted on our road to marriage equality... HRC has chosen to honor our organization and our mission statement emphasizes inclusion, as inclusion can only strengthen our movement."

©GayCityNews 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sex Trafficking between the US & Asia

Ngoc Nguyen, who will be presenting at the next Queer Justice Meeting on the topic of Human Trafficking between the U.S. and Asia, offered the following information for those interested in the issue.

"I've found an incredible documentary called "Born Intro Brothels." It's set in India where a photographer provided 8 children with cameras and taught them how to use them. These children are affected by the red-light industry and the pictures tell a story of their lives.I've complied youtube links of the movie for your convenience. The whole documentary is roughly around 80 mins long (each part is 10mins). Enjoy" - Ngoc Nguyen

Not too long ago Ngoc moved to the New York City area and recently attended his first QJL meeting last month.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Please mark your calendars...
First Thursday in March

Thursday-March 6th

8 pm
LGBT Community Services Center
208 W. 13th Street, NYC

Topics of discussion:
My So-Called Community -
the attractiveness of New York City for LGBTers or not
Sex trafficking between the US and Asia

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apparent hate crime in California

A 15-year-old was murdered in Oxnard, CA, apparently after he was harassed for acting gay and/or effeminate and then fought back:,0,7204301.story

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Conflict of Interest for Judgeship Nominee


The Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering a vote on the nomination of Gus Puryear to a Federal Judgeship for the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee.

Puryear currently serves as General Counsel for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit private prison company and would hold a judgeship in the same district where CCA's corporate office is located, where numerous lawsuits against CCA are filed.

He has little trial experience in federal court; during his time at CCA he has worked to hide damaging information about the company and has belittled prisoner litigation. The top lawyer for the nation's largest private prison company is particularly ill suited to serve as a federal judge.

Who is Gus Puryear? Mr. Puryear's background includes the following: He received his J.D. degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1993; served as a law clerk to Judge Barksdale for the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1993-1994; worked as an associate attorney for the Farris, Warfield & Kanaday law firm from 1994-1997 (now Stites & Harbison); served as counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, 1997-1998; worked as the legislative director for Senator Bill Frist from 1998-2000; and was hired by CCA as general counsel in 2001. He also serves on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, and is on the board of Nashville Bank & Trust.

Why is his nomination a bad thing? He's CCA's general counsel and would hold a judgeship in the same district where CCA's corporate office is located, where numerous lawsuits against CCA are filed. He has little trial experience in federal court; during his time at CCA he has worked to hide damaging information about the company and has belittled prisoner litigation. The top lawyer for the nation's largest private prison company is particularly ill suited to serve as a federal judge.

What are the specific concerns about his nomination?
Conflict of Interest
1. Mr. Puryear would have a conflict of interest in regard to all litigation involving CCA, his former employer. This is the strongest argument against his appointment. Puryear's 2006 compensation from CCA included a salary of $237,308 plus $602,957 in "other long term compensation," according to Since Nov. 2006 he has sold shares of CCA stock valued at over $3 million (in January 2008, Puryear reported that he sold 31,100 shares of CCA stock for about $400,000 in profit). In short, CCA has made Puryear a multi-millionaire. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 455, "Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Under this statute, Mr. Puryear presumably would have to disqualify himself from any case involving CCA as a party. This is significant because according to a federal docket search, over 400 cases naming CCA or CCA employees have been filed in federal court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Having to assign such cases to other judges would be a burden on the federal court system, and would not be an effective use of judicial resources.

Lack of Trial / Litigation Experience
2. Although Mr. Puryear served as a judicial clerk, his time spent in active litigation as a trial lawyer has been scanty. He spent only three years working for a Nashville law firm. One of the attorneys at that firm stated that Puryear was hired right out of law school as a "young lawyer," and mainly assisted other attorneys. According to federal court records, Puryear has been listed as counsel in 130 cases in U.S. District Court in Tennessee over his legal career, which certainly sounds impressive. However, an examination of each of those cases reveals the following:
85 cases were dismissed by the court without service on the defendants; Puryear did nothing.
39 cases were handled by another law firm or attorney; Puryear was not directly involved.
1 case was answered by Puryear personally; he sent a letter saying the defendant had died.
5 cases included Puryear's personal involvement; all were in 1994-1998, and only one went to trial.
Thus, according to federal court records, Puryear has been actively involved in just five federal cases and in only one trial (a bench trial, not a jury trial) in Tennessee, most recently 10 years ago.
Further, he has authored only one published law journal article, in 1992. Apparently Mr. Puryear's qualifications for a federal judgeship are not based on his extensive experience as a trial attorney, nor on his litigation experience or acadmic credentials. What, then, are his qualifications?

Partisan Political Appointment
3. This is strictly a partisan political appointment. Puryear is a dedicated Republican supporter, having previously worked under Republican Senators Bill Frist and Fred Thompson. He was an advisor to Vice President Cheney during the 2000 debates. He has given at least $13,450 to federal and state Republican campaign committees since 2001; specific donations include $3,000 to Sen. Bob Corker from 2005-2006, $1,000 for Mitt Romney in 2007, $2,000 to President Bush for the primary in 2003, $1,000 to Lamar Alexander's Senate campaign in 2005, and $1,000 to Sen. Kit Bond in 2003. The Nashville Post referred to Mr. Puryear as a "Republican heavyweight."
This is par for the course since most federal appointments, including District Court judges and U.S. Attorneys, are political in nature. Still, federal judges, who are supposed to be impartial, should not be as partisan as reflected by Puryear's record, irrespective of party. Political payback should not be the basis for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

Has Not Acted in the Public Interest
4. As CCA's general counsel, Mr. Puryear has actively worked to hide damaging information about the company from the public, including from governmental agencies that contract with the company. Such actions are antithetical to the ethical qualities that should be displayed by a federal judge. There are two examples that can be cited. Following a hostage-taking at CCA's Bay County, Florida jail in 2004, which resulted in a prisoner and a nurse hostage being shot by a SWAT team member, CCA refused to release an after-action report related to the incident. Puryear arranged to have a private law firm conduct the report to protect CCA from liability, and stated the report would never become a public record. Also, Puryear put the company's quality assurance division under CCA's legal department so that any quality assurance audits would not be subject to public record laws. Of course he was "just doing his job" as CCA's lawyer. But is this kind of behavior worthy of a federal judicial candidate?

Questionable Objectivity
5. Mr. Puryear has indicated he has distain for lawsuits filed by prisoners. In a 2004 article printed in Corporate Legal Times, Puryear stated, "Litigation is an outlet for inmates . It's something they can do in their spare time. Most of these folks have had extensive contact with the legal system and are in facilities where they have access to legal materials. Many have turned themselves into jail-house lawyers." Puryear cited cases such as a prisoner suing CCA to have her silicone breast implants replaced with saline implants, a prisoner suing to have an onion served with every meal, and a prisoner filing a lawsuit claiming he had seizures after using an expired tube of denture adhesive sold in the prison commissary.

Of course most lawmakers don't like litigious prisoners, either; e.g., witness the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). But as a federal judge Mr. Puryear would be hearing numerous prisoner suits; in 2006 alone, 220 prisoner lawsuits were filed in federal court in the Middle District of Tennessee.
Also, as CCA's general counsel, Puryear should know better than to disparage lawsuits as an "outlet" for prisoners to do in their spare time, given the many jury awards and settlements in suits filed against CCA over the years, which include a $3 million South Carolina jury award for the abuse of juveniles at a CCA facility (2000), a $1.6 million settlement for a suit involving abuse at CCA's Youngstown, Ohio facility (1999); a 2002 $5 million settlement to a female prisoner who was raped by Transcor guards (Transcor is a CCA subsidiary); an undisclosed settlement to the family of Estelle Richardson, who died at CCA's Metro jail in Nashville (2007); and a $235,000 jury award for medical neglect involving a TN prisoner (2002). In fact, from Jan. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31, 2003, CCA settled over 190 suits for a combined total of $7.39 million (these cases involved both prisoner and employee litigation). Given Puryear's background with CCA in which he has exclusively defended against prisoner lawsuits, his objectivity as a federal judge hearing similar cases is questionable.

Something Else to Consider
6. In July 2004, while Mr. Puryear served as CCA's top lawyer, a female prisoner at the company's Metro Detention Facility in Nashville, Tennessee was beaten to death. Estelle Richardson, 34, was in a solitary confinement cell when she was found unresponsive; an autopsy revealed a skull fracture, four broken ribs and liver damage. The medical examiner, who ruled her death a homicide, stated her injuries were consistent with blunt force trauma and could not have been self-inflicted. In Sept. 2005, four CCA guards were indicted on murder charges in connection with Richardson's death. The charges were eventually dropped by prosecutors, partly because they could not determine the exact time the injuries were inflicted. CCA quietly settled a civil lawsuit filed by Richardson's family in February 2006. The question remains: Who murdered Estelle Richardson? Mr. Puryear, who had inside knowledge about Richardson's death through internal CCA records and the suit filed by her family, was only interested in protecting CCA's interests. What about the public's interest in knowing who beat Estelle Richardson to death? What about bringing her killers to justice, whether they were CCA guards or other prisoners? That, apparently, was not one of Mr. Puryear's concerns. Estelle Richardson's death at a CCA-run jail remains unsolved.

What steps can be taken to oppose Puryear's nomination?
Although Mr. Puryear's nomination hearing was held on Feb. 12, 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet voted on his nomination. The Committee members still need to hear from concerned citizens who oppose Puryear's nomination. Contact them now to voice your concerns! Phone calls and faxes to the individual Committee members and the Committee staff are best:

United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary224 Dirksen Senate Office BuildingWashington, DC 20510

Democratic Phone: (202) 224-7703
Democratic Fax: (202) 224-9516
Republican Phone: (202) 224-5225
Republican Fax: (202) 224-9102

Senator Patrick Leahy, Committee Chair
United States Senate
433 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4244
Fax: (202) 224-3479

A list of all the Senate Judiciary Committee members is available at this link; all the members need to be made aware of opposition to Puryear's judicial nomination: