Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Unusual Feature Story for the NYT

At a Sex Club, the Outré Meet the Ordinary
By Alan Feuer
New York Times - 02/26/09

The pleasure grottoes at Brooklyn’s newest sex club tend to fill up only after midnight, when the hedonists on the dance floor have loosened their libidos with some disco, doused their inhibitions with a drink. This disputes the old saw that swingers are insatiable and will perform at any moment with any living creature that can count to 10 or blink.
They may be New York City’s most disparate individuals, as their ranks can range from squeaky corporate bankers to hairy-chested buzzards to Spandex matrons from the suburbs. At a recent Valentine’s Day party, a couple in their 60s went at it nonchalantly near buffet trays of ziti. A fat man eating cheesecake sat and watched.

Mistress Wanda, who runs the place, is inured to such behavior and smiles when asked about the outré actions of the ordinary crowd.

“Everybody comes here: cops, postmen, bus drivers,” she said. “I went to a funeral last month and recognized a pallbearer. Everyone’s a swinger.”

Her club — whose name has been withheld at her request — sits like a fine-cut jewel in rough surroundings, wedged between the Gowanus Expressway and a cement plant. The place is bring-your-own, in the expansive sense of the term (both drink and date). The erotica on the walls is hazy and romantic and reminiscent of the photographs in frame stores. The club is open only on the weekends, and the cover charge will not break the bank: $40 for couples, $90 for single men. Unescorted women, who are sex-club gold, are allowed in free.

The space itself, which is not unlike a hangar, is partitioned at the middle by a low-slung plaster wall. There, on the right, is the nightclub: liquor service, buffet table, portable parquet dance floor. Here, on the left, the private rooms, the voyeur rooms, the group room and the hardware: a spanking bench and a cross.

“It’s a nice place,” Wanda said, “because it’s safe, and there are always people watching.” She is a small, round woman with a warmly sensual manner and, much like her clients, the unassuming features of your fellow passenger on the bus.

Her clients are mostly marrieds in their 40s who have gradually watched their sex lives slowing down and are looking for the spicy weekend safety that a sex club can provide. They come here for the cleanliness and for the ambience of innocent eroticism. For the homey touches, too: Handi Wipes in each private chamber; laundered sheets; condoms on the house.

Bob “the Massage Guy” gets the evenings started. On this night, a dark-haired girl with nipple rings was first upon his table, and she quickly drew a crowd. The swingers watched her as she lay back writhing like a piece of burning paper. Pornography played on a television set beside the table. “Good times,” somebody allowed.

When the girl-on-girl show was announced, they shuffled en masse toward the dance floor as though the club were a museum and they themselves were tourists in a herd. Two young specimens arrived and took their clothes off. They mauled each other with the energy of terriers mating. It was dangerous work.

By 1 a.m., the adventurers had gathered where the dark-haired girl was strung up on the cross.
“How’s your mother?” a balding swinger asked his date. She looked at the pale pink body on the apparatus. “Fine. I’ll take a drink.”

Click here for a panoramic interior view of the Sex Club

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Opinion: Of Bathhouses and Community Boards
By Allen Roskoff
New York Blade - 02/20/2009

I am writing this article in Rio de Janeiro. I needed a break from New York, where horses are treated like trucks and gay men are arrested on false prostitution charges. While the entrapments are outrageous, I maintain we would be better off eliminating prostitution arrests altogether. Why are laws against victimless crimes being enforced in the first place? This so-called quality of life, zero tolerance campaign must end.

The atmosphere in Rio is very open and the city offers a great assortment of gay nightlife. There are numerous clubs and at least five bathhouses. The bathhouses, while not as fancy as the ones long closed in New York, serve their purpose. Prostitution is permitted or at least overlooked in almost all venues and it is quite in the open in the baths. The young men are intelligent, bilingual and educated. As I say, consenting adults everywhere should be able to agree to have sex for money, as they do in Brazil. You’d think that such a religious, Christ-worshipping country would prohibit this behavior, but no. In New York, men are being arrested on trumped-up suspicions, but in Rio it is live-and-let-live. Of course, I gathered all this information only on a fact-finding mission.

In Brazil, drugs are also tolerated. Ordinary users convicted of drug crimes get either treatment or community service. Luckily, Bloomberg, Ray Kelly and the City Council have no jurisdiction. I also surmise that they don’t have community boards sticking their noses into everyone’s private lives.

President Obama and Governor Paterson both say they want lobbyists to have less power within government. The first thing they can do is to ban lobbyists from sitting on the New York State Democratic Committee and being delegates to the Democratic National Committee. From what I see, lesbian and gay lobbyists in these positions make their first concern peddling influence for monetary gain, and the real issues facing the LGBT community are virtually meaningless. Replace these culprits with real activists advocating for the community and not their own wallets.

Two gay men were attacked in New York. One was thrown down and hit his head on the floor. His boyfriend was punched in the face while his assailant screamed “faggot.” This happened at the Corner Bistro at West 4th Street and Jane Street in front of other staff and patrons and the attacker is an employee of the restaurant. The Village isn’t what it used to be and it is no wonder gay people have left in huge numbers. The Community Board needs to disapprove the renewal of the Corner Bistro’s liquor license. An LGBT boycott won’t work because they don’t want us there in the first place. Revoking the license will send a much more important message. Since the Pride Street Fair in June is only a block away, that would be a great day to close them down.

Page Six of the New York Post wrote the following:
“MANHATTAN Community Board 4, which covers Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, seems to be turning puritanical. Board chair man J.D. Nolan is demanding an investigation into gym mogul David Barton’s new posters in the neighborhood, claiming they’re pornographic and should be censored. Barton - whose clients have included Alex Rodriguez, Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani - built his gym empire around the motto, ‘Look Better Naked.’ One board member was overheard at a recent meeting complaining, ‘You’d think we were living in Kansas.’”
I will offer my own opinions about Community Board 4 in the not-too-distant future.

The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club recently started a monthly, invitation-only breakfast for members and supporters. At the kickoff, the guest speaker was Woody Pascal, Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Liquor Authority. After my brief introduction emphasizing the anti-nightlife mood of community boards and their capricious and arbitrary decisions, Pascal began a very enlightening presentation. After a short primer on the goals and function of the SLA, he outlined the difference in roles that the state and city governments play in determining policy on liquor licenses. Pascal also spoke about the current fiscal crisis and the importance of nightlife to the economy of New York. His agency plans to schedule meetings to educate Community Boards as to their role in relation to the SLA. There were extensive questions from those present, particularly the club owners. In addition to those owners, the following were in attendance: Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick; Wendi Paster, chief of staff to Assembly Member Dick Gottfried; Colin Casey from State Senator Tom Duane’s office; and Adam Brickman from Assembly Member Jonathan Bing’s office; Council candidates Maria Passante-Derr, Bob Zuckerman and Ken Diamondstone; political guru Michael Colosi; District Leader Alan Fleishman; and Community Board 7 chair, Helen Rosenthal, as well as John Weis and Corey Johnson.

There has been great speculation as to why Charles G. Hogg, the groundhog in Staten Island, bit Mayor Bloomberg on Groundhog Day and drew blood. My theory is that the groundhog is gay and has great reason to detest the often anti-gay mayor.

Son of Dallas megachurch pastor arrested in gay sex sting‏

The son of T.D. Jakes — the Dallas megachurch pastor who’s called homosexuality a “brokenness” and declared that he would never hire a sexually active gay person — was arrested in a gay sex sting in Kiest Park in January, according to Dallas police reports.

Jermaine Donnell Jakes, 29, faces a charge of indecent exposure after allegedly exposing himself in front of two undercover vice detectives shortly after 10 p.m. on Jan. 3. Senior Cpl. Janice Crowther, a DPD spokeswoman, confirmed Thursday, Feb. 12 that the detectives were both male.

According to an arrest affidavit, the detectives were conducting an investigation into citizen complaints of sexual activity when they observed Jakes and several other unknown males park their vehicles in the lot east of the park at 2106 W. Kiest Blvd.

The detectives followed Jakes into a wooded area, where he approached them with his penis exposed through his unzipped pants, the affidavit states. Jakes masturbated for several seconds while making eye contact with one of the detectives.

Jakes made no attempt to conceal his penis despite people walking and jogging on a trail nearby, the affidavit states. According to court records, Jermaine Jakes listed his place of employment as T.D. Jakes Ministries. Jakes was released at the scene after being detained.

T.D. Jakes is the founder of the Potters House, a 30,000-member church in South Dallas. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, he’s been criticized by HIV/AIDS activists for undermining prevention of the disease by stigmatizing homosexuality and drug use.

On same-sex marriage, Jakes once told USA Today: “To date, I have not seen scriptural authority that allows me to stand on behalf of God and say I now pronounce you husband and husband, and wife and wife. This is an issue the government is undecided about. The Bible is not.”

Jermaine Jakes’ attorney, Faith Johnson, issued a written statement this week.
“We are aware of potential allegations involving Jermaine Jakes and are undertaking our own investigation of these allegations at this time,” the statement said. “Given an apparent government investigation, we have no further comment at this time.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 13, 2009.

Queer Justice League's Andy Velez at the Sheridan Square Rally

Stop the Arrests: Andy Velez from Eric Leven on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

National Rally Planned at Independence Hall - Equality Forum

We’re missing Milk’s legacy
by Mark Puleo

We’re missing Milk’s legacy Even today, the depiction of gay characters remains mostly caricatured.

I was about to write another missive on our dreary economy until Dustin Lance Black, who won best original screenplay for Milk, jolted me to attention with his Academy Awards acceptance speech. Its touching exhortation that all young gays and lesbians grow up in a world where they’ll enjoy equal rights under the law was followed by Sean Penn’s more political, but equally poignant, award speech scolding those who would deny same-sex marriage rights in California. But is Hollywood — historically a bastion of closeted actors and entertainers — ready to embrace the message of the man these awards ultimately honor?

Slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, whom Penn portrayed in his winning role, advocated for gays to come out of the closet, regardless of their fears. Not only for the psychological peace it would provide, but also to educate an unfamiliar straight society to gay people. If they didn’t know we existed, how on earth would they treat us equally, Milk asked.
But despite its “liberal” reputation, the entertainment industry has a rather conservative history when it comes to most things gay. For years, it perpetuated the image of masculinity through the chiseled leading man. Even today, the depiction of gay characters in mainstream media remains mostly caricatured.

Worse, there has been reluctance on the part of gay and lesbian actors to be open with their fan base about their sexuality. Although Ellen came out on national television over ten years ago, it was still novel when Neil Patrick Harris disclosed his sexuality in 2006. Many chortled over the fact that a talented gay man was playing a heterosexual.

Lest anyone doubt the social impact of more openly gay actors, consider the public policy implications when Rock Hudson reluctantly disclosed his battle with AIDS in 1985. Prior to his revelation, the disease remained an obscure threat for many; yet at the time of Hudson’s untimely demise, incredibly over 6,000 Americans had already died.

There are plenty of straight actors supportive of gay rights in Hollywood. But where are the gay ones living out Milk’s message? Surely, there are a few more than Neil Patrick Harris.

Mark Puleo is co-editor of the Brazilian Journal, a bilingual publication in Greater New England.
Published February 25, 2009 in METRO NewYork.

Speaking Truth to Power

By Harvey Fierstein

Read at the DEFYING INEQUALITY: The Broadway Concert - a celebrity benefit for equal rights on Monday, February 23, 2009. The New York Times reported today that organizers said the four-hour Broadway benefit on Monday night for gay rights groups raised $400,000 in ticket sales and donations. The money will be distributed equally to five groups that advocate for gay marriage and other gay-related interests: Empire State Pride Agenda, Family Equality Council, Equality California, Garden State Equality, and The Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force.

Dear President Obama.

While fighting for the abolition of slavery, one politician qualified his stance, "I have never been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people."That politician was Abraham Lincoln.

Obviously time and experience brought Mr Lincoln to what would have been called the extremist view; that freedom cannot be compromised just to appease the majority.

And so he made a grander gesture reminding us of "...a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". Passing a law would change the course of slavery, but those words changed the course of the history.

Mr Obama, I have heard you speak eloquently in favor of inclusion for gays and lesbians. But then you sternly state your opposition to marriage rights. It leaves me wondering if you are straining to be politic or, if like Lincoln, your views still need maturing.

Days after your historic election an aide of yours told me that you plan to do away with the military's DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL. I applaud the gesture. But don't kid yourself. Redefining that policy will do little to end discrimination against us.

With or without the Pentagon's permission gays and lesbians have been serving in the military since the birth of this nation.

We may have served in silence.

We may have fought in secret.

But a complete ban of gays did not stop us from fighting and dying for our country.

Abolishing DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL won't bring us into the military or end discrimination against us.

Legalizing gay adoption won't end discrimination against our children in the playground.

Even legalizing gay marriage won't bring about the whole cloth change our nation needs.

When you, leader of the free world, accept, tolerate and even invite bigots into your fold changing a policy is not enough.

In any case, we don't need you to fight our small battles for us.

We will eventually win these on our own. Property matters, adoption rights, and even gay marriage will be won in courts of law as they are now being won in courts of public opinion.

Given time, our constitution, and the American values of fair play and justice, will prevail. We will win equal rights.

But what only you can give us is the grand gesture.

Mr President, we need you to be more than another reasonable voice.

We need you to raise yourself up out of the mire of majority opinion.

We need you to rise above the daily politics of compromise.

We need you to mount that bully pulpit our blood, sweat and tears have erected, and speak to the greater ideal.

America needs to hear you say, "We will no longer tolerate the oppression of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles. They are our family. They are we and we are they."

The nation needs to hear you say, "We must prove ourselves worthy of the title Americans; protectors of the weak, standard bearers of freedom, and guarantors of equal rights for all."

Mr President, history will record the day you say, "From this day forward no amendment, statute or law that seeks to deny full rights of citizenship on the basis of sexual preference will be tolerated. Hatred and bigotry are here forth banished to the dark recesses of small minds."

Let the Pledge of Allegiance light our way to tomorrow as " nation, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.'"

That, dear son of Lincoln, is the grand gesture we need from you.

We need a hero, and you have been elected.

Harvey Fierstein

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reverend Pat Bumgardner's Remarks at the Sheridan Square Rally

We all know the facts of this case --- why, at least in terms of false arrest and trumped up charges, we are here. We know the stories of gay men in their 40s or older being targeted for arrest, as a back door way of closing establishments/places of business the city cannot legally --- or, in my opinion, morally, shut down.

We especially know the story of Robert Pinter and his courage in rethinking an original decision to go quietly to the slaughter, and instead to not only stand up for himself, but form a coalition to stand up for all of us --- because this is about ALL of us --- not just gay men over a certain age. It is about all of us --- every gay man, every lesbian, every person who has ever had sex, every person who has never had sex --- it’s not just about people who shop in video stores or who buy magazines with people in suggestive poses.

It is about our right --- what Robert and those of us standing here today with him are saying is: we have a right --- all of us --- to freedom of speech and assembly --- and even viewing pleasure. That is what the Constitution we supposedly espouse says: the right to life, liberty and happiness --- viewing pleasure is part of our happiness. Our exercise of that right should not be used as coinage in a Ponzi scheme by the state, to build false collateral in cases that have no merit.

Who’s conduct is disordered here, if not that of police officers lying about who solicited and entrapped whom? Whose health, both physically with a person quote “undercover” who offers to act WITHOUT benefit of condom, and morally with lying, is really at stake?

A lot of things are passing for freedom of speech these days --- racist depictions of a President; hateful messages designed to do one thing onloy: inspire violence against other human beings. --- I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know where the law will ultimately come down on the freedom of speech we gather to protect today. But I am a person of faith who knows the Scripture records the story of two men in the bushes one day, Jonathan and David, kissing each other until David “exceeded” himself {I Sam. 20:40-42}.

Biblical scholars may profess not to know what that means --- but I am
Guessing that everybody here today, religious or not, has a pretty good
Idea what it means. --- “Jonathan, O Jonathan, your love has been won-
derful to me” {II Samuel 1:26}. David will mandate all of his fellow
citizens memorize those words/write them on their hearts, because the
truth is sex in the Bible, just like sex in the city, isn’t a bad thing ---
and whether you pay for it or it’s free, doesn’t determine its morality.

The issue here is the criminalization of our sexual lives. What is happening here is the same thing that is happening in Senegal with the imprisonment of eight men trying to do nothing more than teach people how to practice safer sex. It has to stop!

Being open and honest about human, adult needs and meeting those needs in responsible and honest ways --- not lying about who we are or what we’re up to; not using each other to make a case that has nothing to do with that relational moment --- is what determines morality, and should, I think, determine legality.

And so I’m here today mostly to laud Robert’s courage and conviction --- and to encourage all of us to stand up for the elimination of the policing of sexual activity between consenting adults --- to encourage us not to let things like potential embarrassment or imposed shame rob us of the dignity of who we are.

God speaks the language of the flesh --- that’s the heart of the faith
I profess --- that God became a human being.

Be human, for God’s sake. There’s nothing wrong with that.

- Rev. Pat Bumgardner

Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of New York

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Links to coverage of February 14, 2009 Protest over FALSE ARRESTS, NYC

Commentary: Stop the Arrests by Jesse Monteagudo
Miami Herald, Feb. 16, 2009

“Stop the Arrests!” It is hard to believe, but almost forty years after the Stonewall Riots gay men are still being harassed by the New York City Police Department.

Friday Forum: Are Undercover Sex Shop Stings Homophobic?
Queerty, Feb. 13, 2009
It's that time of the week, when Queerty takes a break from the opinion-making and puts you, the readers, in charge.

NYC Protesters Slam NYPD Gay Sex Entrapment Stings
EDGE Boston, Feb. 16, 2009
What looks like an abrupt increase in arrests of gay men in New York City’s gay-friendly Greenwich Village is being protested by gay New Yorkers and questioned by elected officials.

Among Gay Men, Arrests Spark Concern About Being Singled Out
New York Times, Feb. 14, 2009
On an October evening last year, Robert Pinter walked into the adults-only section of an East Village video store. Within minutes, he was approached by a young, handsome stranger.

Protesters: Police target gays as prostitutes
Associated Press, Feb. 14, 2009
Gay New Yorkers staged a protest near Mayor Michael Bloomberg's home today, asking him to stop police from what they say are arrests on false prostitution charges.

Bloomberg's Home Targeted In False Arrests Protest
Gay City News, Feb. 14, 2009
Chanting "False arrests for prostitution, vice squad trashes the Constitution," roughly two dozen New Yorkers picketed near Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Upper East Side home objecting to the arrests of gay and bisexual men made in Manhattan porn shops by city vice cops.

Protesters claim cops entrap gays
Daily News, Feb. 14, 2009
About two dozen protesters near Mayor Bloomberg's upper East Side home accused the NYPD Saturday of entrapping gay men in prostitution stings to close down sex shops.

Protesters: Police Target Gays as Prostitutes
1010 WINS radio, Feb. 14, 2009
Gay New Yorkers staged a protest near Mayor Michael Bloomberg's home Saturday, asking him to stop police from what they say are arrests on false prostitution charges. [Includes audio.]

Gay Activists Rally Against Prostitution Charges
WCBS radio, Feb. 14, 2009
A group of gay New Yorkers stood on the corner of 5th and 79th street, near Mayor Michael Bloomberg's home. The men held signs in the air as they asked the Mayor to stop the false arrests of gay men for prostitution.

Accused Johns Take Their Protest to the Steps of Gracie
Gothamist, Feb. 14, 2009
After weeks of unrest within the gay community but little official action over accusations that the NYPD has been setting up gay men in fraudulent prostitution stings inside adult video stores, protesters took their message to the steps of Mayor Bloomberg's home and staged a rally today outside Gracie Mansion.

Activists Protest at NYC Mayor's Home Over Gay Sex Shop Arrests
Towleroad, Feb. 14, 2009
Protestors gathered on Saturday in front of the upper east side residence of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York to draw attention to a series of false arrests of gay men by the NYPD at adult video shops in the city. [Includes video.]

Hat Tip - Bill Dobbs

Sunday, February 15, 2009


By Brad Hamilton and Murray Weiss
February 15, 2009
New York Post

After giving petty criminals a break, the NYPD summoned a dozen precinct commanders to Headquarters Friday to help focus efforts against aggressive beggars, squeegee men, hookers and illegal peddlers, The Post has learned.

Station-house bosses from Manhattan and The Bronx met with top brass and gave them reports on quality-of-life problems each is facing, according to sources familiar with the gathering.

The summit was called by Chief of Department Joseph Esposito after cops issued 7.1 percent fewer summonses for minor offenses in 2008 than in 2007, as The Post reported last month.

"The chief doesn't want anyone taking their eyes off the ball," a source said.

"They want to get a hold of these quality-of-life problems," said another. "They really want to go back to basics."

Early in the week, a unit from headquarters scouted the city looking for problem areas and taking photos. Then brass called the sitdown with precinct heads to hear from them.

They talked about petty crimes and misdemeanors that can drive the average New Yorker nuts - street walkers, panhandlers who get in your face and homeless people who hang out at ATMs or fast-food joints.

Commanders from East Harlem reported on prostitution problems, sources said, while the Central Park commanding officer talked about the homeless who sleep on benches and harass parkgoers.

Times Square eateries have been plagued by beggars who hold open the door and pester customers. A lone squeegee man who hangs out near the Lincoln Tunnel and Port Authority bus terminal attracted particular attention, with three commanders saying they knew of him and his 50 arrests.

And although the NYPD is struggling to keep a lid on such problems amid budget cuts and the ongoing emphasis on counterterrorism, sources said there were fewer problems than might have been expected.

"They walked away thinking, 'We're doing a pretty good job here.' It wasn't a crisis situation. If you know your squeegee men by first name, you're on top of this."

Even so, said this source: "If you have a homeless person on your street, that's a threat."

The gathering, which followed a similar sitdown in December, was a clear sign that Commissioner Ray Kelly is emphasizing a zero-tolerance approach, sources said.

Kelly said as much in an op-ed piece he penned for The Post on Jan. 28.

"A fair look at the statistics shows that the NYPD remains intent on improving quality of life by suppressing violations at every turn - just as Mayor Bloomberg directed from his first days in office," he wrote.

Additional monthly quality-of-life meetings have been planned as part of an ongoing effort to improve enforcement on petty offenses, which slacked off in 2008, sources said.

On Jan. 8, The Post reported that cops last year issued 38,372 fewer criminal summonses for offenses such as loitering, drinking in public and disorderly conduct. Moving-violation tickets also declined 6 percent, and parking tickets plummeted 12 percent.

Last year's ticket fritz came as the NYPD broke up special units in each precinct that went after drivers who speed, run red lights and park illegally.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Friday's powwow was part of regular summits at One Police Plaza to brainstorm and stay on top of crime issues.

"The NYPD's record on quality-of-life enforcement from 2002 forward is unmatched," he said. "The fact that it was discussed Friday is not remarkable."

Additional Bloomberg Protest Footage

Coalition to Stop the Arrests Protest 2.14.09 from Eric Leven on Vimeo.

Blomberg Protest Footage

Among Gay Men, Arrests Spark Concern About Being Singled Out
By Christine Hauser
New York Times - 2/15/2009

On an October evening last year, Robert Pinter walked into the adults-only section of an East Village video store. Within minutes, he was approached by a young, handsome stranger.

“He was very charming and cute, and we agreed to leave the store and engage in consensual sex,” said Mr. Pinter, a 53-year-old massage therapist. But on the way out, he said, the man offered Mr. Pinter $50. Mr. Pinter, who is gay, said he found it odd for a younger man to want to pay him for sex.

“Then I got this weird feeling and thought if he continues to offer me money I am going to say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ ” he said.

Outside, Mr. Pinter said, he was put against a chain-link fence by undercover police officers and handcuffed. As he was being led to a van, he was told he was being arrested for “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.”

The arrest of Mr. Pinter, whose narrative differs from the police account, and more than two dozen similar arrests in more than a year have touched a nerve among many gay New Yorkers and raised the concerns of some elected officials.

A recent editorial in Gay City News said the city’s actions were reminiscent of the era of the Stonewall Inn, which was frequented by gay men. A police raid at the bar in 1969 led to protests that are now considered the beginnings of the organized gay and lesbian rights movement in New York City.

“Forty years later, the N.Y.P.D. is still targeting gay men and places we gather,” said William K. Dobbs, an advocate for gay rights.

Some of the arrests have been used by the city as evidence in “nuisance abatement” lawsuits, a tactic used for many years to try to shut down businesses where unlawful behavior is taking place. The chief police spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said that the police were not singling out gay men but merely responding to complaints about illegal activities.

In 2008, Mr. Browne said, the city obtained 900 nuisance abatement closings or “stipulations,” settlements in which a business agrees to change its practices.

Many of those cases involved under-age drinking, drug dealing and gambling in clubs. Though the police have been criticized for targeting gay-themed video stores, only 3 of the 100 nuisance cases that involved prostitution last year were at such businesses, Mr. Browne said.

“The impression is being put out there that it is all concentrated on gay Manhattan,” Mr. Browne said. “That is just not true.”

At least 34 men were arrested in 2008 and early 2009 in those types of police operations in sex-themed businesses, according to Mr. Pinter, who started a group called Coalition to Stop the Arrests. Mr. Browne said he could not immediately confirm that figure, but said that there were 1,650 female and 233 male prostitution arrests citywide in 2008.

Staff members of City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, State Senator Thomas K. Duane, other elected officials, activists and the commanding officer of the Police Department’s vice squad, Brian Conroy, met on Wednesday at City Council offices to discuss the police activities.

“I have been an elected official for quite a while, and this is the first time I have heard of such a large cluster of anything like this,” said Senator Duane, who represents parts of Manhattan and who, like Ms. Quinn, is openly gay. “And it is the first time middle-aged men are being arrested for prostitution,” particularly odd, he added, when none of them had prior arrests for anything.

A statement released by Ms. Quinn’s office on Friday said she has “serious concerns regarding the spike in arrests of gay men in the Village” and has “raised these concerns with the administration.” Work will continue to “make sure no one is being unfairly targeted by the Police Department,” the statement said.

Mr. Browne said that there was “general agreement” at the meeting that the police should address quality-of-life issues and illegal activity “but also in a way that reassures the gay community that none of its members are being targeted because they are gay.”

Mr. Pinter, who attended the meeting, said, “It was a great beginning, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”

On Saturday, Mr. Pinter and a group of about two dozen men, most of them members of gay-rights organizations, met at Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, near Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's town house, to speak out against the arrests.

Some held up handwritten signs that read: “Shame on Bloomberg” and “Being gay is not a crime.”

“To be unfairly targeting members of a group on trumped-up charges is something that shouldn’t be happening today,” said Zachary Woolfe, 24, the president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats.

Mr. Bloomberg commented on the arrests on Feb. 7, saying: “The Police Department is looking at it and you can rest assured that Speaker Quinn is working with our administration to take a look and make sure that whatever was done was done correctly.” Asked about Saturday’s protest, Jason Post, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, said that the mayor’s staff took part in the Feb. 11 meeting, which he called “productive.”

Like Mr. Pinter, a number of men arrested said that they did not agree to accept money for sex, the key element of a prostitution charge. But few, if any, have taken their cases to trial. Most, like Mr. Pinter, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, disorderly conduct.

Senator Duane said the men did not want the embarrassment of a trial. “There is a certain amount of discomfort that these men would be having consensual sex with someone that they just met,” he said.

Twelve of the arrests, including Mr. Pinter’s, were cited in a nuisance abatement lawsuit filed against Blue Door Video, at 87 First Avenue, in November.

The case file describes how the operation was typically conducted. An undercover officer paid a $10 fee to enter the basement, where there is a theater and viewing booths. There, the officer would meet men and offer to pay for sex.

One man who was promised $25 for a sex act offered to do a different sex act for $50, the lawsuit says. Another, it says, said, “O.K., let’s go” when offered $100. Both were arrested once they left the store, so as not to tip off the business or other patrons about the operation.

One man said he wanted the undercover officer’s body, not his money, according to the officer’s statements. That man was not arrested.

In Mr. Pinter’s case, the officer said he saw Mr. Pinter “look at my money, then look at me, then nod his head.” He said he twice offered Mr. Pinter $50 while suggesting sex, and the second time “he agreed.”

“That is complete and utter fabrication,” Mr. Pinter said. “When he offered money, I said nothing. I thought to myself, where is this coming from? I will just see what is up with him. I can very easily just excuse myself and head for home and have dinner. But he seemed kind of insistent.”

Mr. Pinter pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was ordered to undergo counseling. He said his lawyer told him “that would be the easiest way to get out of this. With my state of mind, it appeared to be reasonable.”

An owner of the Blue Door said that it had settled the city’s lawsuit for $15,000.

“It is like any other video store,” said the owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymnity because he said he did not want his daughter to know that he worked at the store. “We have adult videos and movies that we are playing so anyone older than 21 years of age can buy and use them. But all these people who got accused — I cannot believe they are prostitutes.”

Jennifer Mascia contributed reporting.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

NYPD stopped, frisked record numbers in 2008

News Report from The Associated Press, 2/11/2009

NEW YORK (AP) — Newly released figures show New York City police stopped, questioned and frisked a record-high 531,159 people last year.

The New York Civil Liberties Union released the NYPD data Wednesday. The number was more than 13 percent higher than in 2007.

An earlier study by a separate group projected the 2008 figure would be slightly higher than the newly released number.

The new data show 51 percent of those stopped were black, 32 percent were Hispanic and 11 percent were white.

The NYCLU says a disproportionate number of people stopped are minorities. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne says the NYCLU neglected to note that minorities constitute the vast majority of reported crime victims, and police respond where crimes occur.

Monday, February 9, 2009

For Supporters of Gay Marriage, a Dashing of Great Expectations
By Jeremy Peters
New York Times 02/09/2009

When Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A, Smith spoke to a hotel ballroom in Manhattan packed with hundreds of gay-rights advocates, fund-raisers and politicians on Saturday night, his mere mention of the words “marriage equality” roused the crowd.

So when Mr. Smith got to the question on everyone’s mind — whether New York would legalize same-sex marriages — he was greeted with a burst of cheers and applause before he could even finish his thought.

“Hold up,” Mr. Smith, a Democrat, said, trying to temper the excitement. “Although we do not have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage.”

With that, Mr. Smith sent a clear signal that same-sex marriage in New York did not stand a good chance of becoming law this year.

His assessment was a sobering dose of reality for supporters of gay rights, who with their money and support helped Democrats win control of the Senate for the first time since 1965 and hoped to quickly knock down the last remaining obstacle to gay marriage in New York.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Matthew Titone, a Democratic assemblyman who represents Staten Island and who listened to Mr. Smith’s speech, which was delivered at a fund-raiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization.

“Even if they don’t have the votes, that’s really no excuse for the leader not to crack the whip, get them in line and remind them that the only reason they’re in the majority is because of the gay community,” Mr. Titone said.

Expectations that the Senate would act this year have run high. To secure their victory in November, Senate Democrats relied on hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from supporters of gay and lesbian rights across the country. A gay marriage bill, which passed the Assembly in 2007 and has the backing of Gov. David A. Paterson, was among the issues that Democrats were expected to press once they took the majority.

Mr. Smith himself said in 2007, “We’re going to make sure that happens in ’08, when we take over the majority.”

But by dampening expectations that a same-sex marriage bill would pass the Senate this year, Mr. Smith sounded less optimistic than some members of his own party.

“I haven’t given up hope that it’s going to happen,” said Senator Thomas K. Duane, a Manhattan Democrat. “We’re still counting votes and lobbying. I’d say the situation is very fluid.”

Mr. Duane added, “I think he’s conservatively estimating next year.”

Indeed, some pointed to the experience in the Assembly in 2007, when supporters of a same-sex marriage bill initially fell far short of the votes they needed.

“We didn’t have the votes in February of 2007,” said Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, who represents the Upper West Side. “But by June of 2007, we’d passed it. And people said we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

There is an active push under way in the Legislature to tally votes and lobby lawmakers to vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Organizers of these efforts, like the Empire State Pride Agenda, said they remain cautiously optimistic that a bill can pass this year.

“I think we are closer than most people think,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride group. Mr. Van Capelle said he viewed Mr. Smith’s remarks as a way to “manage expectations” of those who expected a quick victory.

He added: “I think it’s a good wake-up call for the L.G.B.T. community to understand that it’s not the majority leader’s job to get the votes. It’s our job.”

Gay and lesbian rights advocates said they could envision different circumstances under which same-sex marriage would be legalized before the end of the year. One way would be if any Republican lawmakers, who have 30 Senate seats compared with the Democrats’ 32 seats, retire, thereby forcing a special election.

“One would hope that several Republicans retire and that there would be a focus to replace them with pro-marriage, pro-L.G.B.T. Democrats,” said Micah Z. Kellner, a Democratic assemblyman who represents the Upper East Side and was at the fund-raiser.

Another possible outcome is that Democrats who say they would not vote for the bill are persuaded to change their minds. Democrats say they believe there are about five Democratic senators who oppose a law.

In an interview, Mr. Smith, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, said he was hopeful that some of his colleagues would change their minds. “I’m working hard to get the votes,” he said.

Whatever the outcome this year, gay and lesbian advocates said they realized they faced obstacles. “Hope doesn’t deliver legislation. Hard work does,” Mr. Van Capelle said, adding, “A Democratic majority in the Senate is not the finish line for marriage equality in New York State; it’s the starting line.”

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No Gay Marriage Bill This Year, Smith Says
By Jeremy W. Peters

New York Times 02/08/2009

Mr. Smith said that while he and his fellow Democrats were committed to legalizing marriage between gay and lesbian couples, there were not yet enough votes in the State Senate to pass a bill. Although the State Assembly has passed such legislation, and Gov. David A. Paterson is a strong supporter of gay rights, the Senate has been an obstacle to allowing same sex marriages in New York.

Speaking in Manhattan at a fund-raiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, Mr. Smith said there was still much work to be done on the issue.

“I know one of your top priorities is the recognition of marriage between same-sex couples — something that I strongly support, something that I believe in and something that we will make happen together,” he told the crowd.

Then, as he received a burst of applause and cheers, he added, “Hold up.” He went on: “Although we do not have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage. And the question is not if; the question is when. So our work still needs to happen for it to happen this year. But I’m going to need your help, and I’m going to need your prayers.”

It did not come as a surprise that Senate Democrats were having difficulty gathering enough votes to pass the measure, but Mr. Smith’s comments were noteworthy for their bluntness. He had never said that he did not expect the bill to pass this year.

In an interview after his speech, Mr. Smith reiterated his position. “The fact of the matter is we don’t have the votes right now,” he said. “So I’m working hard to get the votes.” He declined to say how many votes he needed to assure passage.

Some members of the Legislature who attended the fund-raiser on Saturday said the cause was not yet lost for passage this year.

“I haven’t given up hope that it’s going to happen,” said Senator Thomas K. Duane, a Democrat who represents Greenwich Village. “We’re still counting votes and lobbying. I’d say the situation is very fluid.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mayor Comments on False Arrests

"My understanding is that one of the owners of the stores himself admitted doing wrongdoing and entered into agreements with the City to prevent these kinds of activities from occurring. And some of the people arrested pleaded guilty. Now whether or not they really were or not, the investigation continues. I don’t think I have to justify my devotion to tolerance, but there are laws. If you break the laws, the police department is going to enforce the laws."

Mayor Bloomberg
to Andy Humm (Gay City News)
02/07/2009 Press Conference

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ninth Circuit Rules DOMA Unfairly Denies Same-Sex Spousal Benefits

Ninth Circuit Rules DOMA Unfairly Denies Same-Sex Spousal Benefits
By: Teddy Partridge
Thursday February 5, 2009 12:17 pm

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just ordered Federal Health Insurance Benefits for same sex married couples. The LA Observer reported today that the ruling by Judge Stephen Reinhardt says the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies benefits to gay federal employees' spouses.

The ruling filed under the Order, Employment Dispute Resolution Plan for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says:

"The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state,"

Reinhardt wrote in his Feb. 2 order....

Both orders are internal employee grievance decisions. Both found in favor of the gay employees, directing court administrators to give health insurance benefits to their spouses. The orders also represent direct challenges to DOMA, the 1996 act that forbids the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.

A lawyer for the staff attorney said this is believed to be the first time federal employees will get benefits covering a same-sex spouse.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quinn Speaks Out

"These are false arrests."

Christine Quinn
New York City Council Speaker
(referring to gay men charged with prostitution by the NYPD in various Manhattan
adult video stores increasingly over the past year to METRO NEW YORK .)
Sex stings recall Port Authority lawsuit
METRO NEW YORK - 02/04/2009

New York. Civil rights attorney Michael Spiegel heard a familiar ring in recent allegations that the NYPD has been worngly charging gay men of prostitution in Manhattan porn shops. City Speaker Christine Quinn told Metro on Monday, "These are false arrests."

In 2006, a federal court found Port Authority police were arresting men they believed to be gay, though they didn't see the men break the law. The agency paid nearly $800,000 to Spiegel and his client, a gay New jersey man arrested for public lewdness without probable cause in a bathroom at the World Trade Center station. That was reduced from an earlier award of $1.1 million.

As for the porn shop arrests, "whatever the police think they are doing, they're victimizing people based on their perception of sexual orientation," said Spiegel, who has so far spoken to three men claiming false arrest.

Fits the crime?

After his arrest for prostitution, a "shocked" Robert Pinter, 53, pleaded guilty to "disorderly conduct" and was ordered to take classes. "The first was on how to be a safer sex worker," he said.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Front page FALSE ARREST story in The Metro today

Community upset at gay porn shops sting
Arrests for prostitution being used to shut these venues, critics say
by patrick arden / metro new york
FEB 3, 2009

Manhattan’s gay community has reacted angrily to a spate of prostitution arrests in adult video stores, alleging police have targeted innocent people.

“These are false arrests,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn yesterday.

The allegations started with the October arrest of Robert Pinter, 53, at the Blue Door Video store in the East Village.

“I was approached by a handsome Asian guy who was about half my age,” Pinter recalled. “He asked whether I wanted to have sex. ... On the way out, he very suddenly said to me, ‘Oh, I want to pay you $50.’”

Pinter considered going home but then was rushed by undercover cops. “I thought I was being robbed,” he said.

Gay City News reporter Duncan Osborne detected a pattern. In six porn shops, he said, police arrested 27 men for prostitution, double the number of similar arrests over the previous four years. These arrests were later cited in city lawsuits aimed at closing the shops.
Of the 12 men arrested at the Blue Door in 2008, “two-thirds were 42 or older,” Osborne said. “In all of Manhattan South, just 17 percent of the men busted for prostitution in 2008 were 40 or older. You can’t call that random.”

The NYPD said the arrests came after “repeated complaints” about certain locations.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Continuing Coverage of False Arrests

Police Charged with False Arrests of Gay Men at Adult Video Stores
by Andy Humm
The Gotham Gazette
February 2, 2009

There has been a sharp increase recently in the number of gay men arrested for prostition at adult video stores in Manhattan.Anger is building against the police department in the wake of an increase in arrests of gay men for prostitution at Manhattan adult video stores. Last week, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined in the outcry. She said she is working with the mayor's office and commanders of the police department to set up a meeting that will include gay community groups "to get to the bottom of this."

The arrests have been documented by Duncan Osborne of the Gay City News over the last several months. Police are allegedly using handsome young undercover cops to cruise middle-aged gay men, offering to go home with them for consensual sex. As they leave the store together, the cop offers to pay the man for the sex, confusing the victims who can't imagine why the younger man would make such a proposal. Then, as they walk out of the store, the victim, despite never having agreed to any exchange of money, is surrounded by undercover cops, handcuffed and charged with prostitution.

Gay activists and civil libertarians see the arrests as part of a continuing effort to shut down porn operations in the city and a tendency by the police department to criminalize gay sexual behavior.

We need to see [the arrest policy] stopped and to figure out how it started," Quinn told Gotham Gazette, calling the arrests of gay men "the most egregious I have heard of" going back to her days as executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, which is part of a coalition to stop these arrests. "It's not even entrapment," she said. "These are false arrests."

Recounting the Arrests
Anger over the arrests also brought more than 200 people to a town hall meeting at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in January.

Robert Pinter, a 52-year-old gay man who was arrested for prostitution at the Blue Door in the East Village on Oct. 10, spoke at the town hall meeting. He said a young man — a 29-year old undercover cop who, Pinter said, looked even younger — cruised him in the store. He was "charming and persistent, and we agreed to go home for consensual sex, but as we were leaving he said, 'I want to pay you $50 [to have sex].' I didn't respond, but I thought it was strange," Pinter recounted. As the men left the store, Pinter said, a group of men who did not show police identification pushed him against the wall.

"I thought I'd been set up by a gang," he said. "I asked them why they were doing this to me. I was totally clueless. They handcuffed me and said, 'Why the f--- do you think we're arresting you — loitering for the purpose of prostitution.'"

Pinter spent several hours in a police van, more time at the Seventh Precinct, and "16 or 17 hours in the Tombs," the city jail downtown. His Legal Aid attorney "strongly suggested I plead guilty to disorderly conduct," which he did, although he now regrets it. He was also ordered to go to city-sponsored classes on how to engage in prostitution more safely.

Most of the victims, some of whom are foreign tourists and almost all of whom have never been arrested before, have been encouraged by their lawyers to plead guilty to "disorderly conduct" and end their ordeal, rather than risk trial on the much more serious charge of prostitution. But as the arrests have piled up, civil rights and Legal Aid lawyers have convinced some of the men to fight the charges.

Mark Spiegel, a veteran civil rights litigator, who won a landmark case in 2006 against the Port Authority police for targeting and falsely arresting gay men in Port Authority restrooms, is the process of identifying men caught up in the current sweep who are interested in fighting the charges. "Their civil rights have been violated," he said.

The arrests at the Blue Door, Osborne said, "are suspect and improbable. While overall, 17 percent of men arrested for prostitution in New York City are over 40 years of age, 66 percent of the men arrested at this location targeted by police were over 42.

The experience has radicalized Pinter, who founded a Coalition to Stop the Arrests that meets on an ongoing basis at the LGBT Center. "We have to hold the NYPD accountable," he said, "and keep the pressure on until it ends."

'Going After 'Nuisances'
At the town hall meeting and in his stories in Gay City News, Osborne has tied the arrests to the city's aggressive enforcement of the 1977 "nuisance abatement law."

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and now Mayor Michael Bloomberg have used the law to sue and close businesses where alleged "criminal activity is demonstrated." According to Osborne, such nuisance abatement cases increased from 110 in 1994 to 709 in 1996 to 899 last year, closing everything from chop shops to unlicensed massage parlors.

"The commander of Midtown South said that civil enforcement is a police commander's best friend," Osborne said, who noted the city has had an ongoing effort to shut porn stores.
Following a spate of arrests at another porn shop, the Unicorn in Chelsea, the city sued to close it, citing the arrests by undercover officers.

The Police Department did not respond to Gotham Gazette's e-mailed query after the town hall meeting. Previously, Paul Browne, the department's deputy commissioner for public information, told Gay City News, "The fact remains that the locations had become notorious for solicitation of sex acts, with complaints from the public resulting in police attention."

Bloomberg's press office refused comment, referring questions to the police department. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's spokesperson, Alicia Maxey Greene, also "declined to comment" on the arrests or his office's prosecution of these cases.

State Sen. Thomas Duane said he has been in contact with the district attorney's office and placed a call to Morgenthau himself, but almost a week later had not received a call back from the district attorney.

Duane, who spoke at the town hall meeting, called for the arrests to stop immediately. "People's lives are being ruined," he said. He was noncommittal about whether there should be a criminal investigation into the police conduct. "We have to take things one step at a time, "he said.
City Councilmember Rosie Mendez of the Lower East Side issued a statement criticizing the police for "targeting and criminalizing behavior that is legal."

"In this instance, they are targeting the sexual conduct of gay men. This type of targeting is simply the harassment of certain type of commercial ventures and of potential customers of legitimate businesses. This type of harassment infringes upon an individual's civil liberties," she wrote.

At the town hall meeting, some speakers said police use of false prostitution charges has gone beyond the video stores. Jennifer Ramirez of the Anti-Violence Project said that police go on the "casual encounters" section of Craig's List to trawl for potential arrestees.

"The cops go on the assumption that everyone's a sex worker," she said. "It's not getting better, it is getting worse." As a transgendered outreach worker, she said, "When I'm out on the street doing education, I'm perceived [by the police] as a sex worker and I'm criminalized."

Andrea Ritchie of the Urban Justice Center's Sex Workers Project said police arrest gay and transgendered people for conduct "that would be ignored or winked at in heterosexual people." African American and Latino people are particularly at risk, she added.

There was a sense at the town hall meeting that the public outcry might prompt the police to end their arrests of middle-aged white gay men on false prostitution charges. However, they said, the wider problem of police abuse of their arrest powers for gay, lesbian and transgendered people will continue unless the political leaders protesting the former look into the latter.