Monday, November 23, 2009

We Don't Need a Leader
by Billy Glover

Once again we hear voices saying, after the recent March on Washington, that the glbt community/movement needs a "leader." This seems to me to indicate a total lack of understanding of how this movement has been so successful in going from a single closeted organization in 1950, and a single lgbt publication in 1952 to the thousands of organizations and hundreds of publications and resources that we have today. The only question we should be asking ourselves is why there are so many glbt people who are unaware of just what this community and movement does have. There is lack of communication among the various elements.

It must be said that anti-gay bigots seem to know more about what is going on in this movement than we do. It is doubtful that many of us have actually thought about all the resources we have. I urge everyone to take a look at Gayellow Pages, the print verison or online version (gypages@gmail.com). Each group or publication is so busy trying to do the job it chose to do that they do not know what others are doing. It may be good that today we can have specialized resources, much as medicine now has "specialties," but we then face the same problem medicine is facing, a lack of general physicians, since everyone wants to "specialize" and have more influence.

But the reason we have been so wildly successful is that mostly we have all worked for the main purpose of gaining our civil/equal rights. Only in the last decade have we started specializing in having organizations for each of the areas, thus we have Lambda Legal and National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAD, etc (as well as the ACLU) to work on legal issues. We have organizations for religious work, such as Dignity, Affirmation (Methodist and Mormon), Kinship (Seventh Day Adventist), etc. We have an organization working for youth, GLSEN, and there are groups for each profession; medicine, anthropology, law, journlism, etc.

And while most of our lgbt newspapers and magazine try to give coverage to all of our areas and groups, they don't always seem to do a good job. It seems that many editors and journalists think that we want to know more about the latest celebrity to come "out" than we do about what activities are going on in our community. How often do papers cover our libraries/archives? Do we know of the glbt book clubs? and the travel articles seem to think we would not want to know where the local gay center is in major cities, but only want to know where the closest bar and bathhouse or cafe is. We don't need a lgbt guide to tell us where a local museum is, general guides do that.

And too often when an issue is in discussion, a "specialized" group says they are not interested in it but only in their little domain-as if a religious organization has no interest in gay bars being attacked by police, or a legal organization has no interest in films that are pro or con.

There are a few efforts to get us informed on coverage of glbt issues. Daily Queer News (dailyqueernews@yahoo.com) tries to give us links to what is in the news that we should be aware of. For entertainment news there is Coming Out Support Weekly (onqyb@aol.com). There are others. But if we don't know about these resources they can not help build communication and cooperation within our movement. And thus the hundreds of good leaders working in various organizations, local and national, will not be able to support each other.

Celebrate our diversity. There is no competition among us except to se what we can all do to educate ourselves and the public on the truth about homosexuality. There is no reason to oppose a "march' or say we must only work on a federal/national level or that we must attack an organization that has chosen to work on only one aspect.

We must practice what we preach. We have to acknowledge that there are really gay Republicans as well as Democrats. That some of us are members of PLAGAL and are pro-life, while many of us are pro-choice. There are those who are allies and work with PFLAG, many of whom have lgbt children. And there is COLAGE, for children who have glbt parents.

There is no reason those who fear the lies of the religions can not work with those who choose to stay in the religious community and try to bring about better understanding and change.

We can be proud, of each generation that has added to our work, from the founders of Mattachine, ONE/HIC and DOB in the 1950s to those at Stonewall, and those who did the various "marches" and those who join us each day. THOSE WHO MARCHED will someday be pioneers. We are all pioneers, and we must have done something right, we are slowly but surely changing the world.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October 3, 2009
New York Times
Your Money

The High Price of Being a Gay Couple

Much of the debate over legalizing gay marriage has focused on God and Scripture, the Constitution and equal protection.

But we see the world through the prism of money. And for years, we’ve heard from gay couples about all the extra health, legal and other costs they bear. So we set out to determine what they were and to come up with a round number — a couple’s lifetime cost of being gay.

It was much more complicated than we initially imagined, and that’s probably why we’ve never seen similar efforts. We looked at benefits that routinely go to married heterosexual couples but not to gay couples, like certain Social Security payments. We plotted out the cost of health insurance for couples whose employers don’t offer it to domestic partners. Even tax preparation can cost more, since gay couples have to file two sets of returns. Still, many couples may come out ahead in one area: they owe less in income taxes because they’re not hit with the so-called marriage penalty.

Our goal was to create a hypothetical gay couple whose situation would be similar to a heterosexual couple’s. So we gave the couple two children and assumed that one partner would stay home for five years to take care of them. We also considered the taxes in the three states that have the highest estimated gay populations — New York, California and Florida. We gave our couple an income of $140,000, which is about the average income in those three states for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18.

Here is what we came up with. In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs.

These numbers will vary, depending on a couple’s income and circumstance. Gay couples earning, say, $80,000, could have health insurance costs similar to our hypothetical higher-earning couple, but they might well owe more in income taxes than their heterosexual counterparts. For wealthy couples with a lot of assets, on the other hand, the cost of being gay could easily spiral into the millions.

Nearly all the extra costs that gay couples face would be erased if the federal government legalized same-sex marriage. One exception is the cost of having biological children, but we felt it was appropriate to include this given our goal of outlining every cost gay couples incur that heterosexual couples may not.

Our analysis is not exact science. Not every couple would get married if they could, and others would not want to have children. We also made a number of assumptions based on average costs, life spans, state of residence and gender.

Our gay family is made up of two women living in New York State in a committed partnership that lasts 46 years, until the first partner dies at age 81. We ran two sets of calculations: in the one that turned out to be our worst case financially, one woman earned $110,000 and the other $30,000. In our second couple, both partners earned $70,000. We started running the numbers when both were age 35.

We received assistance from Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, who performed our tax analysis, which required simulating more than 900 income tax returns, in part because we followed the partners for 50 years. We also decided to run all scenarios across the three states so that the results would not be skewed by different state taxes. We’ve outlined all the detail in a workbook linked to the online version of this column.

As for the emotional costs of living with these added complexities, they can’t be quantified. Frederick Hertz, a lawyer in Oakland, Calif., who works with same-sex couples, likens heterosexual marriage to being in the car pool lane. “Being part of a same-sex couple, it’s always stop. Wait. Pay a toll,” he said.

Harvey Hurdle, who lives in Philadelphia with his partner and their young son, said he was reminded of the disparities every time his Social Security statement arrived in the mail. “It’s pretty insulting,” he said. “It says your spouse would get this much. And it’s like, ‘Oh no he won’t!’ ”

Health Insurance

In our worst case, the lower earner’s employer did not provide health insurance and her partner’s employer didn’t cover domestic partners. So the lower earner had to buy coverage on the private market, while the higher-earning partner provided coverage for herself and the two children. All this cost the gay couple $211,993 more than their heterosexual married counterparts, who were able to take advantage of the higher-earner’s family coverage.

In our best case, health coverage cost the gay couple $28,595 more. We assumed both gay partners were eligible for employer-provided coverage. The higher-earner’s employer also provided domestic partner coverage, which covered her partner for the five years she stayed at home. When she returned to work, she used her own employer’s insurance.

Even though the couple paid nearly $29,000 more in premiums than an identical heterosexual married couple, it was cheaper than using domestic partnership coverage throughout because of the onerous tax implications, according to Mr. Williams of the Tax Policy Center. A nondependent partner’s coverage is taxable income, and she can’t use pretax dollars to pay the premiums, according to Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.

Social Security

All our hypothetical individuals started collecting Social Security when they were 66. Same-sex couples are not entitled to a variety of Social Security benefits, including spousal benefits (heterosexual spouses can receive up to 50 percent of a spouse’s benefits while the spouse is alive, if they are higher than their own); survivor benefits (surviving spouses can receive their deceased spouse’s benefits in lieu of their own, if they are higher); and a flat death benefit of $255.

In the worst case, the gay partner who earned $30,000 could not receive higher spousal benefits or survivor benefits from her partner’s much higher earnings record. Nor was she entitled to the death benefit. In total, the gay women collected $88,511 less in Social Security than a similar heterosexual couple. Some couples might try to buy life insurance in an attempt to replace the benefit.

In our best case, when the gay partners had largely identical incomes, neither was at a huge disadvantage because they ended up with about the same monthly benefits. So the only extra benefit a heterosexual married couple received was the $255 death benefit.

Estate Taxes

Heterosexual married couples can transfer an unlimited amount of assets to each other during their lives and at death without paying estate taxes. Everyone else, including married same-sex couples, must pay federal estate taxes on amounts that exceed the 2009 exemption of $3.5 million. Many states also levy their own estate or inheritance taxes, though same-sex couples may be shielded from those in states that recognize their unions. Our couple lived in New York, where the estate tax exemption is $1 million. And though New York recognizes marriages performed elsewhere, that recognition does not extend to state income or estate taxes.

In our worst case, the gay partner who died first in 2055 left an estate that exceeded the state’s threshold by $171,528. That meant a tax bill of $43,378, according to Ron L. Meyers, an estate-planning lawyer with a significant same-sex clientele at Cane, Boniface & Meyers in Nyack, N.Y.

Meanwhile, their identical heterosexual counterparts owed nothing.

The gay couple in our best case had a smaller estate, in part because they were careful to title their home as tenants-in-common, so only the deceased partner’s half of the home was taxable. The estate didn’t exceed the federal or state threshold. So they owed nothing.

Childbearing

Two women who want to have a biological child together need sperm to do it. They may need to purchase sperm from a bank and use a medical professional to inseminate one of the partners. There are also adoption costs.

The worst case here totaled $40,000. It included 12 months of sperm and insemination costs, but the big wild card was the possible need to move to a state where same-sex second-parent adoptions were legal. While this may seem extreme, couples often do it, according to Joyce Kauffman, a lawyer in Cambridge, Mass., who has worked with many of them. We estimated a minimum of $20,000 for this cost, including real estate brokerage fees to sell a home and moving costs.

In the best case, there might be no cost at all: the couple could use sperm from a relative of the partner who isn’t bearing the child or from a friend, inseminate at home and take their chances with free legal forms on the Web. Ms. Kaufman does not recommend such a cavalier approach to vital documents.

The cost for men to have a biological child would be much higher if they used a surrogate.

Pension

We assumed that one partner, in both best and worst cases, received a small pension. In both cases, the partner with the pension plan died first.

Employers do not have to provide survivor pension benefits to a same-sex spouse, but many do anyway (which would put our best case at $0). In our worst case, however, the higher-earning partner died first and did not work for such a company. So the surviving partner got nothing. A similarly situated heterosexual surviving spouse would receive $32,253 before dying herself several years later.

Spousal I.R.A.

You generally need to earn income to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account. But heterosexual married couples can contribute up to $5,000 annually to a spousal I.R.A. for a nonworking spouse. Stay-at-home gay partners, however, cannot make these contributions. So they end up with smaller retirement accounts.

We assumed that all the couples would have either saved 7 percent of the stay-at-home parent’s previous year’s salary, or $5,000, the maximum contribution. So the gay couple with one partner who started out earning just $30,000 would have saved less (had she been legally able to) than someone earning $70,000. In both cases, that five-year gap in savings early on in the partners’ lives haunted them later because they weren’t able to benefit from decades of compounding returns.

The couple with the lower-earning partner at home ended up $48,654 behind by the time that partner died, assuming she invested in a portfolio mixed equally between stocks and bonds that returned 5.94 percent annually. The surviving spouse from the gay couple with equal incomes ended up $112,192 behind.

Tax Preparation

Instead of filing one joint federal tax return and one state income tax return, same-sex couples must file two sets of returns. In both best and worst cases, those couples paid an additional $12,300 in tax preparation fees over the 46 years they are together.

Financial Planning

Even married same-sex couples are encouraged to create a number of documents that try to replicate the protections and rights of heterosexual marriage because their unions are not universally recognized. In the worst case, our gay couple spent $5,500 more than their heterosexual counterparts on their additional paperwork. That included a revocable living trust, which is more difficult to contest than a will, and what is known as a pour-over will, which ensured that anything left out of the trust would be included. They also each set up financial powers of attorney, health care proxies, living wills and a domestic partnership agreement.

In the best case, our couple didn’t spend any more than a prudent heterosexual couple would. Both couples created two wills, financial powers of attorney, health care proxies and living wills.

Income Taxes

Married heterosexual couples with two working spouses with similar incomes often pay more in federal taxes than if they remained single because of the so-called marriage penalty. This occurs when a couple’s combined income pushes them into a higher tax bracket than they would have been in if they filed as singles. But some couples — especially those with a wide disparity in income or with a stay-at-home parent — usually pay less when they file jointly. They benefit from what’s known as a marriage bonus.

In our worst case, where one gay partner earned $110,000 and one earned $30,000, the couple paid $15,027 less in taxes over their lifetimes than their heterosexual counterparts.

Though the gay and heterosexual married couple had identical salaries, the married couple collected more income in retirement — a direct result of their marriage status — and thus owed more in taxes (though they still benefited from the marriage bonus). For instance, the married couple collected higher Social Security spousal benefits and survivor benefits, pension income and income derived from a spousal I.R.A. The gay couples weren’t entitled to any of these benefits.

In our best case, where the partners each earned $70,000, the gay couple paid $112,146 less in income taxes. “That is the marriage penalty rearing its ugly head,” Mr. Williams said.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gay City News Endorses Thompson


The Campaign That Has Not Happened
Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:24 PM Gay City News

LGBT supporters of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cite attributes and achievements valued by other voters –– his compelling personal story as a business builder, the city’s continued success in driving down crime, the curb on indoor smoking in public spaces, an ambitious focus on greening the city.

Many also single out his advocacy for marriage equality. The mayor has made several high profile appeals to the State Senate this year to approve the gay marriage bill already adopted by the Assembly. On October 1, Bloomberg recounted for a group of gay supporters how he had, that day, called the top Democrat and Republican in the Senate and told them, “This is our number one priority.”

That’s heady stuff –– as the mayor spoke, the crowd came alive with applause and spirited shouts. There is real value in the public debate in the cumulative suasion of leaders like the mayor.

The problem is that Bloomberg’s actions regarding gay marriage have been at sharp odds with his laudable words. A disjunction between words and deeds are unfortunately all too common in the mayor’s LGBT record.

In 2005, at the same time the mayor decided to appeal a Manhattan district court judge’s pro-gay marriage ruling, for the first time he announced his support for marriage equality and pledged to lobby Albany to secure that right. That December, he told Gay City News, “When I say I’ll do something, I’ll do something.”

Yet since that statement, Bloomberg has contributed nearly $3.4 million to support the state Republican and Independence Parties, the bulk of those dollars directly funding State Senate Republican incumbents, at a time when that party’s majority refused to bring marriage equality to a floor vote. A $1.2 million Bloomberg contribution to the Independence Party last year was used to support the three most stridently anti-gay Republican senators. The mayor’s support for one of them, Frank Padavan of Queens, helped him squeak out a victory over Democratic City Councilman James Gennaro, a vocal supporter of equal marriage rights.

It’s fair to note that there are marriage equality opponents among the Senate Democrats, too, and that even after gaining the majority last November, their party did not deliver a floor vote. But it’s a good bet that had Gennaro and perhaps another Democrat or two prevailed in 2008, the two disgraceful senators who this past summer crippled a body riven by a 32-30 split would not have had their opportunity. The best information available to Gay City News indicates that without that disruption, Senator Thomas K. Duane would have gotten the marriage equality vote he seeks.

The more salient question, though, as we face November 3 is what the mayor can do to deliver Republican votes to bring the bill to the Senate floor, and on that point Bloomberg’s comments simply strain credulity. On September 17, Bloomberg told Gay City News that he “suspected” he could deliver Padavan and Brooklyn’s Marty Golden, who have both backed up their outspoken opposition to marriage equality with legislative and legal maneuvering. When the two senators’ offices were called to learn what the mayor had done to lobby them on marriage, Golden’s office did not respond. Padavan’s director of public affairs said Bloomberg had done nothing.

At an endorsement meeting on October 9, the mayor acknowledged that Padavan was not “gettable,” this time simply alluding vaguely to “upstate Republicans” whom he might bring around. Bloomberg may be, as he says, the “main funder” of the Senate Republicans, but the upstate incumbents have not accumulated the political debt that a Padavan has, so where is the mayor’s leverage?

Since the last election, Bloomberg has continued his support for the Republican and Independence Parties, donating about $500, 000, money that could return the GOP to the Senate majority in 2010, a perch from which they have consistently opposed gay marriage. Our community cannot afford that risk.

On other key LGBT issues, the mayor also talks a better game than he has played over the past eight years. He frequently mentions the continuing decline in AIDS deaths in the city, yet fails to reiterate his long-since discarded 2003 pledge to cut new infections in half. Six years later, by the city’s own data, infections remain resistant to reduction among gay and bisexual men, with transmission actually rising among young men, particularly men of color.

Asked this month why he has neglected more aggressive AIDS and condom education in the public schools, Bloomberg likened the question to divisive social debates such as evolution versus creationism. But the mayor is a world-renowned public health advocate, and he would never countenance the schools backing down from a science-based evolution curriculum. Why then did his all-star health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, now the head of the federal CDC, say, when discussing a new AIDS curriculum under development, “I don’t know that we will be able to achieve everything that you would want or I would want.”

That’s politics, not progress.

The mayor’s record on AIDS education stands in stark contrast to the positions championed by his opponent, City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., when the Democrat served as School Board president in the late 1990s.

Elsewhere, we can see where politics has trumped progress on issues the mayor now trumpets. Just weeks before the election, Bloomberg named a commission to study the issues facing LGBT homeless youth, pulling in many of the leading advocates. But in each of the four years since the City Council began appropriating money specifically targeting this vulnerable population, the administration has refused to incorporate into its budget the funding critical to providing the beds that still number only in the dozens— intransigence that City Council Youth Services Chair Lew Fidler described as “almost cruel.”

Asked earlier this year about the false arrests of gay men in video stores throughout Manhattan, the mayor insisted questions be directed to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Two weeks ago, Bloomberg said, “I’ve asked Kelly about it,” but then added, “I’m not so sure he’s doing an investigation.”

Mike Bloomberg is a CEO of a mayor –– he attracts top talent and empowers them with important missions. But some smaller issues, especially those that are thorny –– homeless LGBT youth, gay men falsely arrested –– never make it onto his radar, and other important questions –– marriage equality and AIDS education –– take a back seat to political imperatives, whether helping out GOP friends in the State Senate or letting his schools chancellor overrule his health commissioner.

Bill Thompson has a longer and stronger suit on LGBT rights issues. On every issue that the mayor claims bona fides, the comptroller was there first and holds a more unambiguous position. His advocacy for workplace fairness –– through shareholder resolutions aimed at companies in which the city pension funds invest –– has led to nondiscrimination protections and equal partner benefits for LGBT workers at nearly 75 major corporations. That is a significant accomplishment that had helped reshape American business well beyond the borders of New York.

Given Thompson’s record, it is unfortunate that the mayor has made the divisive argument that the comptroller is laying low in this campaign on the question of marriage equality in order to pull out his African-American base.

But Thompson’s limited campaign funds –– Bloomberg is currently outspending him more than 16 to 1 –– has given him a very small window for snaring public attention; unfortunately he has not used it to best advantage. It is certainly appropriate that the Democrat emphasize an issue that disturbs many New Yorkers –– the mayor’s machinations last year that allowed him to run for a third term. But “Eight Is Enough” is simply not enough of a public reassurance for voters during anxious economic times.

We have known Thompson throughout his tenure as comptroller, and have taken a favorable measure of the man and his core principles. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with him for an hour to discuss the current campaign. While his record, we believe, makes him the superior candidate on LGBT issues, we have been disappointed that his campaign has not built on his animating beliefs to better articulate a vision for steering the city at a time of great potential but also severe fiscal stress.

The mayor’s unfettered personal spending on his own campaign does real damage, but the victim is not Bill Thompson. The real losers are the voters of New York, who deserve real debates on questions for which neither our elected officials nor our somnambulant city press corps are providing clear answers.

During this campaign, we should be addressing the intractable problem of HIV transmission.
Bloomberg ought to explain why he brags about how few people live on the streets compared to other large cities, even as the census of families living in city shelters breaks records.

Thompson needs to convince voters that he has concrete ideas for smart and tough-minded stewardship of the city budget when resources are severely reduced. Both candidates must address, in detail, how they will balance the budget in a climate of falling city revenues and uncertain transfer payments from a state in even worse shape. It is easy to talk about new programs, but voters need to hear the specifics of how each candidate will go about cutting programs or increasing revenues in this brutal fiscal climate.

On the question of policing and crime prevention, how do we balance the need for public safety with the NYPD’s appalling rate of stop and frisks–– pegged at more than 600,000 a year, the vast percentage of them people of color?

The city deserves debate about whether vacancy decontrol has canceled out the progress on building new affordable housing.

Elections are about making choices, no matter how dissatisfied we as voters may be about the responsiveness of candidates to our desire for informed debate. Mike Bloomberg has not convinced us that he and his Republican allies will put the needs and aspirations of the gay community ahead of politics. LGBT New Yorkers are looking for a leader and advocate in City Hall. We urge a vote for Bill Thompson.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

EVENTS PLANNED IN RESPONSE TO HATE CRIME IN QUEENS

Queens and all of New York City say
NO MORE!
Join Us in Support Hate Crime Victim Jack Price
Stand With Us Against
Anti-Gay Violence & Homophobia
In response to the violent beating of openly gay 49-year old Jack Price
by two men outside of a convenience store in the College Point neighborhood
of Queens early Friday, October 9th, two events are planned:

Friday, Oct. 16th, 3pm
Education Outreach at Flushing High School in Flushing, Queens
We'll be distributing information about LGBT issues and speaking to students.
Directions: Take the 7 train to Main Street and walk up to Northern Blvd;
cross the street; the school is a huge brick building. Meet us at the front gate.
By bus: Take the Q14, Q16, Q17 or Q44 to 35th Avenue. School is on the corner.
Take the Q25/34, Q65, Q67 to Main Street.
Walk along Main Street toward Northern Boulevard.

Saturday October 17th 2pm.
March and Rally in College Point
We'll be marching down College Point Boulevard from 20th avenue until 14th avenue.
and then holding a rally at nearby Popenhusen playground. Speakers TBA.
Directions: Take the 7 train to Main Street and then the Q65 bus from Roosevelt and Main Street to 20th ave.
Please bring signs without wooden sticks, banners, friends, and your best self.
--
These event are endorsed by Generation Q/the Queens Community House, the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, St. Pat’s for All Parade, Astorians United Against Hate Crimes, Gay Peruvians of the Americas, the Long Island City Alliance, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Las Buenas Amigas, Integrity NYC, Western Queens for Marriage Equality, the Anti Violence Project, Campaign to Stop the False Arrests, Queer Justice League, the International Socialist Organization, Carmen’s Place, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Project Reach, Make the Road NY.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kramer says "This is not Freedom"


"We must never forget that everything we have won can very quickly be taken away from us. We have seen this time and again. Presidents come and go ignoring us. This president is no different. Once again he is not doing it for us and once again we are letting him get away with it. This President is another loser for us and I predict he will remain this way."

"We must remember that we do not have the freedom to marry, to inherit, to adopt, to share our health insurance, to learn about our history in our schools. To learn that our two greatest presidents, Washington and Lincoln were gay. We do not have the freedom to live as straight people have the freedom to live. We do not have the freedom to have our bars not raided by police and officers beating us up with such fury that we land in hospitals."

"We have not learned to fight back with the same fury with which they fight us. You do not get more with honey than with vinegar. There are over one thousand benefits from our government that straight couples get that we are denied. This is not freedom. This is not equality. America’s Bill of Rights says we are meant to be equal."

LARRY KRAMER
REMARKS AT DALLAS GAY PRIDE CELEBRATION
SUNDAY, SEPT. 20, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cleve Jones Urges Pressure on Representatives to Repeal DOMA

Dear Friends:

It has been over 30 years since my friend and teacher, gay rights activist Harvey Milk, was assassinated. Today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have won limited rights in a handful of states, but we are still second class citizens throughout the United States.

Harvey once said, "It takes no compromising to give people their rights."

This morning, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced a bill in Congress to repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." If passed by the Congress, Rep. Nadler's legislation would be a real step forward in the march for full equality and we applaud his efforts, but LGBT people must stop settling for compromises and half measures.

Send a message to your Representative demanding full equality now!

Equal rights are not a "gay" issue. They are about our shared human rights: safety in our schools and jobs, equitable healthcare and housing, and protection for our families, to name a few.

Like all other Americans, LGBT people are guaranteed equal protection under the law by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Free and equal people do not compromise, and that's why we're marching on Washington next month with one simple demand: Equal protection for LGBT people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. Now.

Please ask your Representative to co-sponsor this legislation as an important first step, and remind them that there are no fractions of equality.

When Harvey spoke at Gay Freedom Day at San Francisco City Hall in 1978, he invoked the words of the Declaration of Independence: "All [people] are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words."

No more compromises. We are equal.

-Cleve Jones

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Momentum Builds at Mobilization for Metro NY Meeting at LGBT Center

NYC LGBT Community REVS UP for March On Washington –OCTOBER 10-11, 2009

Diversity was the hallmark as a remarkable group of activists, from high school students to veterans of the famous ACT-UP Cathedral days, and everyone in between, joined in coalition to deliver NYC to DC on October 10-11th.

After affirming the purpose – Full Equality Now -- news was delivered about the flurry of buses already organized with r/t options starting at $20, and others with hotel packages. Participants then swung into action to coordinate a range of activities including media, flyering, fundraising, and organizational outreach. The mood was exhilarating as strangers leaped to coordinate cross-organizationally.

A highlight was the unveiling of a new banner by Gilbert Baker - the originator of the Rainbow Flag – that captured the spirit: Equal « Justice « Under « Law. Drawn from the west pediment of the Supreme Court Building – but derived originally from the 14th Amendment – this Constitutional Principle is the movement’s greatest legal promise, and the activists holding it – the next great political force.

A new website – www.equalityNYC.org – is being launched any moment with all the information needed to launch from NY and arrive in DC fully prepared to deliver the demand for Full Equality Now! There are opportunities for everyone to plug in – this is a grassroots revolution – by the busloads. Come check it out and join the March at www.nationalequalitymarch.com.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Podcast of National Equaity March Organizer Kip Williams


Bilerico's Alex Blaze Interviews Kip Williams - Director of the Equality Across America

The Best Advocacy Advertisement on Marriage Equality!

Hattip: Marriage Equality Ireland

Rainbow Sash Movement Schedules Christian Service on Saturday Before National Equality March

Ecumenical Prayer Service for LGBT Rights In Washington, DC for the March On Washington

The Equality March on Washington is an opportunity for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Catholics to say no to homophobia that would deny us our most fundamental rights. The Rainbow Sash Movement (http://www.rainbowsashmovement.com/) is calling for an Ecumenical Prayer Service to be held outside of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle at 11AM on October 10, Saturday the same weekend as the march.

After the Ecumenical prayer service members and supporters of the Rainbow Sash Movement will enter the Cathedral for the noon Liturgy wearing Rainbow Sashes. This is a symbol of self identification, and to remind our fellow Catholics that our human dignity counts, and that we will no longer be invisible in the face of hierarchal homophobia.

Archbishop Wuerl of Washington DC has shown that he is insensitive to heritage of homophobia that is alive and well in Church as exampled by his recent actions in opposing Gay Marriage.
The Rainbow Sash Movement will no longer be silent because this will only embolden other Catholic Bishops to further distort the debate around Gay Marriage and further dehumanize the intrinsic worth of each Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender person.

Our letters and words of love are meaningless unless we are ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who promote not only our human rights but also our civil rights such as Equality March On Washington. For further information or to get involved please email us at contact@RainbowSashMovement.Com.

Long Live the Everyman

Cleve Jones: The Man Behind the Curtain
Bil Browning Editor-In-Chief of The Bilerico Project
From Huffington Post - 09.02.2009

I had the opportunity to meet veteran activist Cleve Jones Sunday during his recent visit to Chicago. Bilerico Project readers left questions for Jones in the comment section and sent in more via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail, and I did the interview on their behalf. The response was overwhelming.

I read the questions from my iPhone to keep their voices intact. It was their interview, so I simply asked what was submitted and tried to get through as many questions as possible. We'll be paraphrasing the questions in the videos, but there will be a full written transcript of all questions and answers soon.

This isn't the interview I'd have done, obviously; Projectors' questions ranged from supportive to almost hostile. Instead, I wanted to share my reflections about meeting Jones and spending time watching him interact with Chicago activists -- a prologue, if you will, for the Q&A we're prepping.

One outstanding impression was simple and all encompassing. Cleve Jones is no gay God; he has feet of clay.

I've met many of the LGBT big wigs through the blog -- heads of big national organizations, entertainers, and lifelong respected activists I can only hope to emulate. With the exception of my first time meeting Kate Clinton, I'm never really starstruck or, honestly, in awe of their Super Queer powers.

For all the massive egos and self-importance, they're people just like you or I. They put on their socks one at a time like everyone else.

The Man Behind the Curtain Is Just a Man
We met Jones at a Join The Impact Chicago meeting held in a young straight couple's home. By the time we arrived, the official meeting had ended and people were milling about and socializing. Jones was in the back yard swinging the couple's tow-headed toddler up in the air and smothering him with kisses.

Many people only know Jones because of the movie Milk, but he stands out in my head because of the AIDS Quilt. I've sewn panels for the Quilt; I have friends and a former lover who's lives are represented on a small square of fabric decorated with my needlework and tears. Most of the young activists in the home's yard, however, knew the veteran activist solely from his relationship with Harvey Milk as portrayed on the big screen.

Both glimpses of Jones' life, however, are simply shades of the entire man. As with anyone who's dared to step into a leadership role within our community, he has been both praised and denigrated. I was there to ask him Projector's questions, but I also wanted to satisfy my own curiosity about which role was more accurate -- Wealthy Dilettante or Super Gay.

Maybe I imagined something more Christ-like. Would I walk into a half circle group of wide-eyed acolytes worshiping at the feet of their chosen celebrity? Or perhaps I expected yet another older activist who'd survived the AIDS crisis and insisted on being held in high esteem for the length of time he'd outlived his friends and peers.

Instead of a wannabe demigod, the man I met was entirely human. He laughs often, smokes cigarettes, talks too much and stops to play with children. He is charming, middle-class and disorganized.

Who Speaks For the Everyman?
It becomes quickly obvious that the diverse group of young people weren't hanging around to idolize a celebrity activist; they were there to learn how to effectively organize their community. The group didn't want fundraising pitches or bumper stickers; they wanted knowledge on how to change the world. They meant business.

They're not your usual armchair activists that make a small donation to a national or state-level group and click a mouse button a few times a year to send an e-mail to a member of Congress. They're opinionated, racially and gender diverse, and active in many progressive issues. They also feel alone and unsupported by the community in general.

These young men and women don't feel connected to the national movement. Some of them don't feel like they're a part of their local equality organizations either. They shared their frustrations at local community members lack of motivation and team building.

They're radicals looking for a slot to slide into; they have a role to play in the fight for justice but it hasn't been clearly defined. These future leaders are fending for themselves. They're not connected to the power brokers and LGBT old guard who tend to be more cautious and calculating.

Who speaks for them? They do.

Enter Cleve Jones

Like the young activists, he's not wealthy, he's not on a first name basis with all the members of the queer royalty, and he's not a professional political wonk -- either inside or out of the LGBT community. He's a labor organizer now who helps to negotiate union contracts for hotel staff and other workers.

Jones is over 50, not in the best health, and still seems a little in shock at both his recent celebrity status and the vociferousness of some of the attacks launched his way after he became the march's public face. His years leading the NAMES Project hardened him to the challenges of working inside the LGBT community, but his decade out of the spotlight allowed him to recharge and refocus.

His experiences -- whether the time spent at Harvey Milk's side, his years as the head of the AIDS Quilt and the subsequent battle for control of it, or his semi-retirement to the California desert -- have shaped Jones into the gay community's Rodney Dangerfield. He's always been around, wears his heart on his sleeve, talks constantly, and gets no respect from the establishment.

"My only gift worth anything is my ability to talk," he says and the truth of it is soon self-evident. "There seems to be an overwhelming belief that I'm fabulously wealthy and hang out all day by the pool with celebrities and gay leaders. I don't. They say I'm trying to position myself to be the new gay leader, but I'm not. I just want our community to see us we're entitled to equality. We don't have to ask for our rights; they're in the Constitution."

Jones, with all of his flaws and baggage, is not King of the Gays. He's an everyday foot soldier with name brand recognition.

Like the group of young people meeting in Chicago, he feels the need to step forward and demand equality on his own timeline instead of a pre-determined time table established by Gay Inc. He doesn't feel the community has reached out to those like him and isn't willing to wait for the crumbs the establishment drops occasionally -- like cocktail parties at the White House -- while stalling on issues of importance like employment and housing protections, Don't Ask Don't Tell, or relationship recognition.

Accepting Responsibility For Our Own Leadership
As more and more members of the LGBT community grow impatient with the slow advances we've gained, the ranks of disaffected - and imperfect - activists will continue to swell. This ragtag army of eager volunteers are straining at the leash society has put around their necks.

They're not satisfied with incrementalism and platitudes. Promises without end do not interest them.

America's sea change on LGBT rights hasn't happened in a vacuum. The call to "come out" has been answered and LGBT people are regularly portrayed in the media, given positions of authority, and accepted by their families and friends without prejudice for who they are.

Harvey Milk started the clarion call to come out. Thousands of us have continued that mantra and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

One man's idea has turned into the largest benefit the LGBT community has ever had. A man who smoked pot, had multiple sex partners, and tilted at windmills pointed us in the right direction despite his flaws and inconvenient timing for the power establishment.

Is it the right time to have another march on Washington? Of course not. There's never a "right" time; there's always going to be a reason to stick with the status quo.

There will never be a gay Martin Luther King. Even Harvey Milk was a simple man who stood up for his own rights and ours. There is no LGBT royalty.

It's just us. If we want what we're entitled to, we have to demand it. We have to stand up and challenge authority and tradition. We can't count on allies and celebrities to do our work for us.

When we have the full equality to which we're entitled, it will be because of the work of the average, the poor, and the flawed. It will be achieved by the work of the many and the everyday citizen.

And Cleve Jones, for all his flaws, is one of us. He has feet of clay -- as do we all.

The King is dead. Long live the Everyman.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cleve Jones Web Interview - On The Importance of the National Equality March

Hattip: Bil Browning of Bilerico

Cleve Jones Web Interview - On Various Criticism and LGBT Activism

Hattip - Bil Browning of Bilerico

Cleve Jones Web Interview - On The Origin of the National Equality March

Hattip - Bil Browning of Bilerico

NGLTF Endorses National Equality March


The Task Force will engage and support people taking action in pursuit of full equality and justice for LGBT people.

WASHINGTON – September 3 – The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a leader in building grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) political power, endorses the National Equality March, which will be held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10-11. Thousands of people from across the country will march and rally in front of the U.S. Capitol demanding equal protection under the law for LGBT people and their families in all 50 states.

At the march, the Task Force will engage new activists, support fair-minded clergy and other people of faith, and mobilize volunteer activists to return home engaged and energized.“For the past 30 years, LGBT people and our allies have come together in Washington to be inspired, to engage in political action, and to go home geared up to create change. The National Equality March will bring together those of us who have never marched, those who want to renew their passion for action, and those who demand their voices be heard. When we mobilize for LGBT equality, for racial and economic justice, for a transformed society, and to make our love and lives visible, the Task Force is there.

The Task Force will be there at the march to support the voices of new activists, LGBT people and our allies who push and push for the end to hatred, discrimination and unjust laws,” says National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey.

As part of its commitment to support march participants in fighting for local, state and federal change, the Task Force will:
· Utilize technology to connect people to concrete actions they can take on the local, state and national levels.
· Lend its faith organizing expertise in helping to plan an interfaith worship service.
· Work to connect state equality organizations and community centers with march participants the Task Force identifies from their states so they can further engage them to be active at home.
· Engage march participants in ballot campaigns under way in Maine, Washington state and Kalamazoo, Mich.

· Engage and support new activists in honing their talents and grassroots skills after the weekend of the march.

Consistent with the march goal of seeking equality in all 50 states, the Task Force will maintain its longstanding commitment to provide organizers, expertise and money for key ballot measure fights under way in Maine, Washington state and Kalamazoo, Mich. The Task Force will reach out to march participants from these states to channel their energy to create change back home.March attendees who want to further develop their skills and strategize with other activists will be encouraged to attend the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change just a few months later in Dallas, Texas.

“The Task Force is excited to support a new wave of activists and advocates. Whether you come to D.C. to march or stay at home to create change in your city, town, school or place of worship, the Task Force has the tools and know-how to help. Let’s march in Washington and step it up at home,” says Carey.

Standing on the Side of Love Website Relaunches with A Call to Participate in the National Equality March

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=ErAUIvI6/446jATM8th7Oe2BFpf%2BDsce

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Becomes a Sponsor of the National Equality March

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations is a proud sponsor of the National Equality March & Rally that will take place in Washington, D.C. on October 11. People from all of our nation's 435 Congressional Districts will converge on Washington with one simple demand: Full equality for BGLT people in all matters governed by law in all 50 states. The Rev. Peter Morales, newly elected President of the UUA, will preach at All Soul's Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC that morning and lead the UUA's delegation to the March.



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NYC Fundraiser for October March

Benefit for The National Equality March on Washington
Thursday, September 24, 2009
ELMO
156 7th Avenue
between 19th & 20th Streets
New York City
9:00 PM until midnight
Two Floors & DJ’S Scott Jones & David Serrano
Guest Hosts Sherry Vine and Mistress Formika
Complimentary Grey Goose Cocktails
Tickets are $30 in advance, and $35 at the door
Click to purchase tickets on-line.
Due to the generosity of ELMO and Barracuda, your entire ticket will go towards the funding of the National Equality March.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Visibility Matters
Why I'm Going to the Big Gay March in Washington

By Beth Sherouse
from Counterpunch.org 08.31.2009

Since movement veteran Cleve Jones announced plans for a national gay rights march on Washington following the passage of California’s Prop. 8 last November, reactions from the LGBT community have been mixed. Supporters of October’s National Equality March are adopting a grassroots lobbying strategy, demanding “Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states,” and promoting a more direct appeal to the federal government for LGBT rights. Lukewarm supporters and skeptics of the march, mainly organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and state Equality groups, are concerned that the march will drain resources from the state-by-state approach for marriage equality. Critics of the march movement are also concerned that this march may share the fate of previous gay rights marches in ’79, ’87, ’93, and 2000, which seem to have accomplished little.

I have been a supporter of HRC for most of my adult life, and I have worked with both state, local, and campus organizations in South Carolina and Georgia. While I will continue to support such organizations, I think a national approach offers more hope for me and other South Carolinians than anything HRC or state-by-state marriage equality can offer.

South Carolina is one of only five states that has no hate crimes laws; other than a limited policy in the city of Columbia, there are no laws banning discrimination in employment or housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity; and the 2006 constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in SC passed by 78%. For people who do not live in California or Massachusetts, for those who are part of otherwise disadvantaged communities, for those who live in constant fear of employment discrimination and physical violence because their states give them no protection, for those whose lives and relationships are invisible to most of America, marriage equality in progressive states is nothing more than a symbolic victory, and symbols cannot help them provide for their families or protect themselves from discrimination.

I do not plan to spend the rest of my life in SC. But for those LGBT folks who call South Carolina home, gay marriage fights in states like Maine and California offer little more than momentary comfort against communities in which they will remain second-class citizens for the foreseeable future unless the federal government intervenes. The state-by-state approach to equality seems meaningless in a state that has historically been several decades behind the rest of the country in terms of civil rights. If the federal government had left the battle for desegregation up to states to fight on their own, de jure segregation would arguably still be in place here in SC and a few of its neighboring deep South states.

We need to build support behind a federal gay rights agenda, because if we leave our rights up to the conservative majorities in states across the nation, we will never achieve equality. LGBT Americans should ALL enjoy the same civil rights as their heterosexual counterparts, whether they live in San Francisco or Atlanta, New York or Charleston. The federal government must step in and defend our civil rights in places where our community cannot adequately defend itself, and we must show Washington lawmakers that we are looking to them to change laws as we go about the work of changing hearts and minds.

So this is why we march on Washington on October 10-11. We march because at no time in our nations’ history have gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people been more visible and political. We march because marriage is but one of the many rights and privileges that we deserve as citizens of this country, and because it is time for the Obama administration to make good on its promises to the LGBT community. We march because as Americans, our civil rights should not depend on our sexual orientation or gender identity, nor should they depend on what state we live in. We march because visibility matters and is the key to dismantling the foundations of prejudice and discrimination. And we march with the hope that standing in solidarity with each other and asserting our place in this nation has transformative potential.

Beth Sherouse is a Graduate Assistant in the Department of History at the University of South Carolina.

Central Park Rally by NYC Theater Community

The New York Theater Community's Mobilization Rally for Equality In Central Park
from BroadwayWorld.com - 08.30.2009

The New York Theater Community's Mobilization Rally for Equality, organized by The Public Theater, the cast of HAIR, Broadway Impact and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA) was held on Friday, August 28th onstage at Central Park's Delacorte Theater.

Tony Award-winning actress Sutton Foster joined previously announced participants Oskar Eustis, Cleve Jones, Gavin Creel and David Stone onstage at the Delacorte Theater. The rally was held in advance of October's National Equality March in Washington, D.C.

The producers of the Tony Award-winning revival of HAIR previously announced that, in an unprecedented move, they are canceling the show's Sunday, October 11th performance so that the entire cast can join the National Equality March in Washington, D.C.

Last May, civil rights activist David Mixner called for a national march on Washington in support of equal rights for LGBT people, calling on prominent LGBT community leaders Cleve Jones and Torie Osborne to execute and organize it. Days later in Fresno, California, at a rally of approximately 5000 people from all walks of life protesting the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold Prop. 8, Cleve Jones stepped to the podium and committed to Mixner's plea.

At that moment Jones' organization, Equality Across America, was born, along with its first mission: the National Equality March. Between now and October, Equality Across America will develop grassroots leadership in all 435 congressional districts to ensure that their message is heard loudly and clearly by elected officials all across America.

In October 1979, LGBT activists from across the country marched on Washington to fight for equal rights towards all. Exactly 30 years later a new generation of equality activists will take to the National Mall and continue that fight -- and not quit until LGBT people are granted equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.
picture by Jamie McGonnigal


Let Them March

It’s all about visibility, so either applaud marchers' passion or get out of their way
By: Kevin Naff
from the Washington Blade - 08.28.2009

THERE’S MUCH consternation within the LGBT rights movement of late over the issue of the planned National Equality March set for Oct. 10-11 in D.C.

On one side: Left Coast advocates like Cleve Jones and Dustin Lance Black who are lending their celebrity to help promote the cause. On the other: East Coast lobbyists worried about diverting precious resources from state marriage fights so we can have a party on the National Mall this fall.

The inside-the-Beltway take on the march goes something like this: Those Hollywood gays don’t know how D.C. works — duh, Congress isn’t even in session. President Obama will be relaxing at Camp David that weekend. No one will be here to witness the march. Do they even have a permit?You can’t just show up at the Mall and start hootin’ and hollerin’. We should all skip D.C. and go to Maine where the real fight is happening. And they shouldn’t even be calling it a “march,” it’ll bloat expectations in the mainstream media; let’s call it a “gathering” instead.

March supporters, meanwhile, like to portray themselves as modern, progressive, tech-savvy 21st century activists disdainful of the “old ways” of doing things. Indeed, the “old ways” haven’t yielded a single LGBT-related federal law in 40 years of trying. Then again, there’s something to be said for knowing your history.

Some supporters have wondered why the Human Rights Campaign and other national organizations haven’t taken a more aggressive role in planning the march. HRC did issue a press release announcing tepid support (what else could they do?) while others have taken the lead on planning.

But there’s a reason HRC and others in Washington are nervous about the prospect of another LGBT march — the fiasco of the Millennium March on Washington in 2000.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars went missing after that event, much of it cash stuffed into trash bags and hauled away. There were stiffed vendors, shady last-minute emergency loans and mismanagement galore. The theft triggered an FBI investigation, unflattering coverage in the mainstream media and proved an embarrassing debacle for the movement.
THEN, AS NOW, there was no shortage of skeptics who questioned the motivations for the march.

“It’s hard to know what to say, since nothing has been proven, but I think it does seem to confirm a lot of problems we suspected from the beginning,” Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who attended gay rights marches in Washington in 1979, 1987 and 1993, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. “What was the point of people going there? In 1979, we were invisible, in 1987 the focus was on AIDS. This one seemed very self-serving for the organizers.”

Some of those objections have been heard in the current debate. There’s certainly cause for pause and HRC is right to take a hands-off approach to this. But after talking to some march supporters, including Black, it’s hard to dismiss their passion and quest for visibility, particularly after the disappointing opening months of the Obama administration.

As we learned in the Proposition 8 fight, the key to legislative victories lies in winning over our fellow citizens, black and white, rich and poor, religious and agnostic. The way to win them over is to get to know them and for them to get to know us. That, of course, is accomplished through visibility. From individuals coming out in their communities to Ellen DeGeneres and “Will & Grace” bringing gays and lesbians to TV and popular culture to Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin demonstrating that open gays can win election to high office, it’s all about visibility.

No one should dissuade LGBT people from coming out — or marching in the streets. If a group of activists, however small or large, wants to stage a march, they ought to do just that.
And there are encouraging signs that organizers have adopted sensible goals that extend beyond the October march.

THE GOAL OF the event, according to the National Equality March site: “Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. We will accept no less and will work until it is achieved. Equality Across America exists to support grassroots organizing in all 435 Congressional Districts to achieve full equality.”

Happily, there’s no flashy concert planned. This is about a grassroots movement of people still angry over Prop 8 and frustrated by the Democrats’ slow progress on our issues in this Congress. They turned out en masse for protests around the country after Prop 8 and now they want to converge on D.C. to amplify their message. For those who can’t join the march, organizers are urging them to personally lobby their members of Congress.

Some state-based activists have expressed legitimate concerns about diverting resources to fund a presence at the march at a time when they’re fighting marriage and other battles at home. Of course, those battles should take precedence over a national march and state organizers worried about the march should skip it and stay focused on their important legislative initiatives at home.
But for those seeking an outlet for all that pent up frustration — particularly younger people energized by the change rhetoric of late and connected as never before by social networking technologies — this march represents a unique outlet and a chance to be seen.
The rest of us should either applaud their passion or get out of the way and let them march.

Equality Federation Refuses to Endorse October March


Stop talking to buildings, start talking to people
Why now is not the best time for an LGBT march on Washington
By: Toni Broaddus
From the Washington Blade - 08.21.2009

EQUALITY FEDERATION, THE national alliance of state-based equality groups, will not endorse the proposed March for Equality currently being planned for October in Washington, D.C.

Although we cannot endorse the march, we will not oppose it. We understand the importance of a March to many activists — especially our youth — who want to be energized and radicalized by standing shoulder to shoulder with tens of thousands of other people who are passionate about equality for LGBT people. Many of us working in the movement today were inspired to this work by past marches, and we hope that will be true of future leaders.

But at our recent annual meeting of state leaders, the overwhelming sentiment surrounding the proposed march was frustration that our movement would divert any of its precious resources — especially volunteers and money — to converge on Washington without a specific goal and when most members of Congress will actually be in their home districts.

As one of our young state leaders told her Federation colleagues: We have to stop talking to buildings and start talking to people.

This is not the time for a national march. This is the time to be speaking in our own communities, to our elected representatives, to our neighbors and to voters.

For activists who want a life-changing experience, Washington is not the place to be this October. This year, Maine is the place where we are all needed most.

IF THE LOSS of the right to marry in California last year made you angry, you now have an opportunity to fight back against religious fundamentalists and stand up for marriage equality by making sure that we never again fail to successfully defend our hard-won civil right to marriage.
This October, I urge you to take a volunteer vacation in Maine. There, thousands of volunteers are needed to knock on doors, staff the phone banks, organize community meetings and speak one-on-one with voters. You can sign up online, get yourself to Maine, be assigned community housing and an action team and make a real difference in winning and defending equality. Or you can take that money you planned to spend on your $400 airfare and your $300 hotel room in D.C., and donate it instead to the Maine campaign now. As we learned in California, early money is critical to implementing a successful campaign.

Our ability to defend marriage equality in Maine will have far more ramifications for this struggle for equality than our ability to quickly throw together another march on D.C.

EVEN IF YOU cannot travel or donate money or participate in a long-distance phone bank this fall, you can still engage in critical work for equality wherever you live. Do you know, for example, what is happening in your own state legislature?

Over the next three years, state equality groups will be working to pass or amend non-discrimination laws in 20 states, so that LGBT people can find jobs and housing. In 21 states, we will work to pass anti-bullying and safe schools laws so that youth can grow up more safely and valued as individuals — and, I hope, to help stem a wave of youth suicides. In 17 states, we will work to extend relationship recognition to LGBT families and in 14 states we will fight to defeat anti-gay laws that diminish our families.

We cannot achieve these goals in the states without the active participation of community members and grassroots activists willing to knock on doors, make phone calls, attend lobby days, meet with legislators and speak up in their workplaces and churches and neighborhoods.

Each person reading this article has incredible power to make a difference — without traveling to Washington on a holiday weekend. Are you registered to vote? Do you know who all your elected officials are — at the local level, the state level and the federal level? Do they know how you feel about equality for LGBT people?

Achieving equality is not a walk in the park. It is a walk in neighborhoods and communities across this country, where we still need to educate Americans about the meaning and importance of equality to each of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, our gender identity or any of the cultural or ethnic or physical differences that separate us. Equality should unite us.
And equality should begin at home.
Toni Broaddus is the Executive Director of Equality Federation.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Live Nation Cancels HATE-filled Buju Banton Shows

Important VICTORY! over "kill gays" performer Buju Banton!
by Gay Liberation Network, Chicago
Friday 08.28th.009

Late yesterday afternoon huge concert promoter Live Nation announced that it was canceling all its concerts with "kill gays" performer Buju Banton. This includes House of Blues concerts previously scheduled for Chicago (10/2), Las Vegas (10/15), Dallas (10/20) and Houston (10/22).

In early August, Chicago's Gay Liberation Network initiated a campaign for Live Nation and other concert promoters to cancel Buju Banton concerts because the performer calls for killing Lesbians and Gays in the lyrics of his songs. Thousands of flyers were distributed and protest messages started to pour into Live Nation officials. "Live Nation, owner of four House of Blues locations at which 'kill gays' singer Buju Banton was scheduled to appear, has done the right thing and canceled the hate monger," said Bob Schwartz of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network. "
These cancellations show the power of protest to deliver the goods," said Schwartz, who has led several protests against "murder music" performers over the years. Schwartz had written Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino to demand that Banton not be rewarded with bookings for advocating the murder of lesbians and gay men. "We first wrote Live Nation several years ago following their purchase of House of Blues to alert them to the Jamaican Reggae 'Dancehall' singers who advocated killing gays, and had thought we wouldn't have to go down this road again. We hope they have finally gotten the message," said Schwartz.

In Buju Banton's native Jamaica, anti-gay violence is rife and typically tolerated by the authorities. Gay sex is punishable by 10 years in prison. Buju Banton both feeds off of and encourages this violence. As Passport magazine reported,"When [Human Rights Watch researcher Rebecca] Schleifer visited Jamaica in 2004, Brian Williamson, the country’s leading gay activist, was violently chopped to death with a machete in his apartment in Kingston. Schleifer walked to his street shortly after the murder and found a crowd of people gathered outside Williamson's apartment singing and celebrating his murder and shouting the chorus of 'Boom Bye Bye,' a popular Buju Banton dancehall hit about shooting gay men: 'Boom bye bye, in a faggot's head. Rude boys don’t promote nasty men, they have to die.' Others were laughing and yelling, 'Let’s get them one at a time,' and, 'That's what you get for sin.'"
While the Live Nation House of Blues cancellations are an important victory over Buju Banton, our work is not done yet.

Other concert promoters in several other cities are still sponsoring his concerts: Philadelphia (Sept 12); Providence (Sept 15); Portland, ME (Sept 17); Revere, MA (Sept 18); Charlotte (Sept 23); Raleigh (Sept 24); Norfolk (Sept 25); Richmond, VA (Sept 26); Detroit (Sept 30); Denver (Oct 6); Aspen, CO (Oct 7); Salt Lake City (Oct 8); San Francisco (Oct 10); Tallahassee (Oct 11); Jacksonville, FL (Oct 12); San Jose, CA (Oct 13); Charleston (Oct 14); Los Angeles (Oct 14); Raleigh (Oct 15)AEG Live is the promoter behind most of the remaining concerts on Buju Banton's U.S. tour.

You can sign the LA Community Center's petition to AEG Live at the following https://secure2.convio.net/laglc/site/SPageServer?pagename=Stop_Hate_Lyrics

If you are in any of these other cities, please begin organizing your own protests! The Gay Liberation Network will be willing to assist you as best as we can.
http://www.gayliberation.net/

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Michelangelo Signorile: Why I'm Marching

At first he thought the march on Washington planned for October was ill-timed and ill-advised, but Michelangelo Signorile now says there couldn’t be a better time to take to the National Mall en masse.

Why I'm Marching
By Michelangelo Signorile
from Advocate.com 08.24.2009

The time is now for an LGBT march on Washington, and every one of us should be heading to D.C. for the National Equality March planned for October 10–11. Let me explain why, first by reviewing recent events. Then we’ll look back a little in history.

Last June, amid growing criticism of President Obama’s foot-dragging on LGBT rights and after the despicably homophobic Defense of Marriage Act brief, the White House hosted a cocktail party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. It was nice for us to see a president commemorating the Stonewall riots for the first time. But it was an even better event for Obama himself, a great photo op, in the midst of the outcry, showing gay people -- dubbed by the media as LGBT “leaders” -- applauding him.

Leaders? The crowd included an overwhelming number of Democratic Party hacks and donors, Beltway social climbers, careerists (specifically, former gay group heads now looking for jobs), PR flacks, lobbyists, sycophants, and assorted sellouts. The fabulously superficial -- including a fashion editor who sits front and center at every New York fashion show -- were there too. And everyone was enthralled by the event, clapping uproariously for the president. Many of those present had raised lots of money for Obama and for the Democratic Party—or gave generously themselves -- and probably worked for 20 years to see the day when they could have cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the White House, using the good china no less!

I say the crowd “included” these people because also present were hardworking chiefs of gay groups, a few of whom actually have made a difference. There were also people like Matthew Shepard’s family -- his parents, Judy and Dennis, and his brother, Logan -- who’ve worked tirelessly on our behalf. And there were some legendary activists, such as Frank Kameny, who paved the way for us all.

But noticeably absent were people the White House sees as troublemakers and who, as a result, weren’t invited to the event. These were people who worked for -- and raised money for -- candidate Obama but criticized the president in the weeks prior to the reception. I’d argue that there probably wouldn’t have even been a cocktail party if it hadn’t been for these people’s protests. And, to that point, I’d add that the White House is pretty naive if it thinks a little East Room glad-handing is enough to quiet the masses of fed-up gay people. But I digress.

Obama gave a speech at the event that repeated the promises he’d made on the campaign trail -- about ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” once Congress sends him a bill, getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act, stopping discrimination, and on and on. Everyone toasted him.

But just months later, the president is already back to his pre–cocktail party mode: quietly backing, if anything, the incrementalist approach -- as pushed by the Human Rights Campaign, Congressman Barney Frank, and others who are giving him cover -- in which we pass a hate-crimes bill, then eventually move on to the toothless Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which exempts small businesses and religious organizations and isn’t needed by people who live in some of the country’s most populous states (since they already have statewide protections) or work for almost any Fortune 500 company (since most already have corporate policies banning employment discrimination). Then maybe we’ll slowly move on to some of these other things, like discrimination in housing, discrimination in public accommodations, serving openly in the military, marriage equality, and so forth. Of course, at this rate the Democrats might lose control of Congress—and Obama, the White House -- before any of this is ever achieved.

A lot of people are saying we need to think big -- real big -- and that we need to stop denigrating ourselves by settling for crumbs, which we never get anyway. Perhaps we need an omnibus LGBT rights bill that covers everything -- go for it all, and leave it at the feet of Congress. Maybe we should amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include us. What about going for the most urgent things rather than the easiest—like pushing hard for the president to issue a moratorium on “don’t ask, don’t tell” -- something he has disingenuously said he can’t do and that gay groups more or less have given him a pass on -- rather than sitting idly by and watching careers be destroyed while we continue to investigate options for overturning the policy?

We should be inspired by the people around us who are taking different and refreshing approaches at winning full equality. People like those behind the group American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is backing the Ted Olson-David Boies federal legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8 despite the tension that’s created with gay legal groups petrified of taking the issue to federal court.

It’s time for these new, even risky approaches, and it’s time to ask for it all -- now. That’s why I’m going to Washington for the National Equality March -- called for by legendary activists David Mixner and Cleve Jones -- even though, like others, I wasn’t initially down with the idea. It’s time the rest of us showed up on the National Mall and let Obama know that the cocktail party crowd -- the suck-ups, the sycophants, and the scaredy-cats -- doesn’t represent us. We want full equal rights (or at least see a substantial commitment to moving in that direction) -- not photo ops and wine spritzers.

It’s not that I was ever really opposed to the idea of a march. To the contrary, as listeners to my Sirius/XM radio show know, I’ve been talking about marching on Washington ever since the morning after Election Day. For me, it’s been a matter of historical precedent: The black civil rights movement wisely took advantage of a window of opportunity in 1963, when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress. Republicans could no longer be blamed for the lack of civil rights protections, and marchers knew that media attention would put pressure on the Democrats and shame them into action.

We have that same window of opportunity today.

But that’s not to say I was immediately sold on this march. I didn’t think there was enough time to organize (I thought we’d need at least a year) and I thought it made more sense to march when Congress was in session (rather than out on Columbus Day recess).

Activist Cleve Jones came on my show and pretty much dismissed my first argument: In the old days, yes, we needed a lot of time to plan an event of this magnitude. But with the Internet, organizing can happen at lightning speed. Indeed, the protests that popped up across the country in the weeks following the passage of Prop. 8 -- including one that I helped organize in New York City that drew more than 5,000 people -- are a testament to that.

To my second argument, Jones explained that holding the march on a holiday weekend means many more marchers will be able to make the trek to D.C. Besides, he said, it doesn’t matter so much that Congress isn’t in session. People should focus on lobbying back home -- at the district offices instead of on Capitol Hill—and they’ll be trained to do so at the march. Even if the House and Senate were in session, Jones said, representatives and senators (not to mention the president) would likely find a convenient reason to be out of town. And really, after the Obama administration submitted that brief in defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, an alarm sounded -- and I think it told us all that we need to go to Washington as soon as possible, holiday or no holiday.

Others have argued that there are so many other important things happening around the country -- from organizing the repeal of Prop. 8 in California to defending marriage in Maine in a referendum this fall -- that this march might be too much to take on. These same critics have also pointed to the economy and the price of travel as arguments against a march.

But we’re a big and resourceful group of people. We can do many things at once. We can always find a way. And we must. We can’t wait any longer.

In 1963 many African-Americans from all across this country, many of them poor and with little means to pay for travel, did whatever they could to get themselves to Washington. The time was right, and historic. For us, the time is now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lutheran Group Eases Limits on Gay Clergy
By Michael Luo and Christina Capecchi

from New York Times - 08.22.2009

After an emotional debate over the authority of Scripture and the limits of biblical inclusiveness, leaders of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination voted Friday to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as members of the clergy.

The vote made the denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the latest mainline Protestant church to permit such ordinations, contributing to a halting sense of momentum on the issue within liberal Protestantism.
By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates to the denomination’s national assembly in Minneapolis approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” to serve as official ministers. (The church already allows celibate gay men and lesbians to become members of the clergy.)

Just before the vote, the Rev. Mark Hanson, the church’s presiding bishop, led the packed convention center in prayer. When the two bar graphs signaling the vote’s outcome popped up on the hall’s big screens seconds later, there were only a few quiet gasps, as delegates had been asked to avoid making an audible scene. But around the convention hall, clusters of men and women hugged one other and wept.

“To be able to be a full member of the church is really a lifelong dream,” said the Rev. Megan Rohrer of San Francisco, who is in a committed same-sex relationship and serves in three Lutheran congregations but is not officially on the church’s roster of clergy members. “I don’t have to have an asterisk next to my name anymore.”

But the passage of the resolution now raises questions about the future of the denomination, which has 4.6 million members but has seen its ranks steadily dwindle, and whether it will see an exodus of its more conservative followers or experience some sort of schism.

“I think we have stepped beyond what the word of God allows,” said the Rev. Rebecca M. M. Heber of Heathrow, Fla., who said she was going to reconsider her membership.

Conservative dissenters said they saw various options, including leaving for another Lutheran denomination or creating their own unified body.

A contingent of 400 conservative congregations that make up a group that calls itself Lutheran Core is to meet in September. Leaders of the group said their plans were not to split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church but to try to protect its “true tenets” from within.

Among so-called “mainline” Protestant denominations, distinguishable theologically from their more conservative, evangelical Protestant counterparts, both the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ already allow gay clergy members.

The Episcopal Church has endured the most visible public flashpoints over homosexuality, grappling in particular in the last few years with the consecration of gay bishops. It affirmed last month, however, that “any ordained ministry” was open to gay men and lesbians.

Earlier this year the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejected a measure that would have opened the door for gay ordination, but the margin was narrower than in a similar vote in 2001. The United Methodist Church voted not to change its stance barring noncelibate homosexuals from ministry last year, after an emotional debate at its general conference.

But the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s heavily Midwestern membership and the fact that it is generally seen as falling squarely in the middle of the theological milieu of mainline Protestantism imbued Friday’s vote with added significance, religion scholars said.

Wendy Cadge, a sociology professor at Brandeis University who has studied Evangelical Lutheran churches grappling with the issue, said, “It does show, to the extent that any mainline denominations are moving, I think they’re moving slowly toward a more progressive direction.”

Describing the context of Friday’s vote, several religion experts likened it to the court decision last year in Iowa legalizing same-sex marriage.

“In the same sense that the Iowa court decision might have opened people’s eyes, causing them to say, ‘Iowa? What? Where?’” said Laura Olson, a professor of political science at Clemson University who has studied mainline Protestantism. “The E.L.C.A. isn’t necessarily quite as surprising in the religious sense, but the message it’s sending is, yes, not only are more Americans from a religious perspective getting behind gay rights, but these folks are not just quote unquote coastal liberals."

The denomination has struggled with the issue almost since its founding in the late 1980s with the merger of three other Lutheran denominations.

In 2001, the church convened a committee to study the issue. It eventually recommended guidelines for a denominational vote. In 2005, however, delegates voted not to change its policies.

On Friday, delegates juggled raw emotion, fatigue and opposing interpretations of Scripture.

Before the vote but sensing its outcome, the Rev. Timothy Housholder of Cottage Grove, Minn., introduced himself as a rostered pastor in the church, “at least for a few more hours,” implying that he would leave the denomination and eliciting a gasp from some audience members.

“Here I stand, broken and mournful, because of this assembly and her actions,” Mr. Housholder said.

The Rev. Mark Lepper of Belle Plaine, Minn., called for the inclusion of gay clergy members, saying, “Let’s stop leaving people behind and let’s be the family God is calling us to be.”

Michael Luo reported from New York, and Christina Capecchi from Minneapolis.