Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Speak Out Against the Syringe Funding Ban

Last week President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2010 budget request. This budget still includes the language that bans the use of federal funding for syringe exchange programs.

HR 179, the Community AIDS & Hepatitis Act - permits the use of Federal funds for syringe exchange programs for purposes of reducing the transmission of bloodborne pathogens, including HIV and viral hepatitis.

It is being sponsored by Rep. Jose Serrano and cosponsored by some 8O house members including:

Rep Neil Abercrombie[HI-1], Rep Joe Baca[CA-43], Rep Tammy Baldwin, Rep Howard L. Berman [CA-28],Rep Robert A. Brady[PA-1], Rep Lois Capps[CA-23], Rep Michael E.Capuano[MA-8], Rep Andre Carson [IN-7],Rep Donna M. Christensen[VI], Rep Yvette D. Clarke [NY-11], Rep Steve Cohen[TN-9], Rep John Conyers,Jr. [MI-14], Rep Joseph Crowley [NY-7],Rep Elijah E.Cummings[MD-7],Rep Danny K. Davis [IL-7],Rep Diana DeGette [CO-1],Rep William D. Delahunt[MA-10],Rep Rosa L. DeLauro[CT-3],Rep Michael F. Doyle [PA-14],Rep Edwards, Donna F. [MD-4],Rep Keith Ellison [MN-5], Rep Sam Farr[CA-17],Rep Chaka Fattah [PA-2],Rep Bob Filner[CA-51], Rep Barney Frank [MA-4], Rep Marcia L.Fudge [OH-11], Rep Charles A. Gonzalez [TX-20], Rep Gene Green [TX-29],Rep Raul M. Grijalva [AZ-7], Rep Luis V. Gutierrez, [IL-4], Rep Phil Hare [IL-17], Rep Jane Harman [CA-36], Rep Alcee L. Hastings[FL-23],Rep Maurice D. Hinchey [NY-22], Rep Rush D. Holt [NJ-12], Rep Michael M. Honda [CA-15], Rep Jesse L. Jackson,Jr.[IL-2], Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee [TX-18], Rep Henry C."Hank " Johnson,Jr.[GA-4], Rep Carolyn C. Kilpatrick [MI-13],Rep Dennis J. Kucinich [OH-10], Rep Steven C. LaTourette [OH-14], Rep Barbara Lee [CA-9], Rep Sander M. Levin [MI-12], Rep John Lewis [GA-5], Rep Zoe Lofgren [CA-16], Rep Carolyn B. Maloney [NY-14], Rep Doris O. Matsui [CA-5], Rep Betty McCollum [MN-4], Rep Jim McDermott[WA-7], - Rep James P. McGovern[MA-3], Rep Kendrick B. Meek [FL-17], Rep Gregory W.Meeks [NY-6], Rep George Miller[CA-7], Rep James P. Moran [VA-8], Rep Jerrold Nadler[NY-8], Rep Grace F. Napolitano [CA-38], Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton [DC], Rep John W. Olver[MA-1], Rep Solomon P. Ortiz [TX-27], Rep Ron Paul[TX-14], Rep Pedro R. Pierluisi[PR], Rep Chellie Pingree[ME-1], Rep Mike Quigley [IL-5], Rep Charles B. Rangel [NY-15],Rep Silvestre Reyes [TX-16], Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [FL-18], Rep Lucille Roybal-Allard [CA-34], Rep Bobby L. Rush [IL-1], Rep Tim Ryan [OH-17], Rep Linda T. Sanchez [CA-39], Rep Janice D. Schakowsky [IL-9], Rep Robert C."Bobby" Scott [VA-3], Rep Brad Sherman[CA-27], Rep Albio Sires[NJ-13], Rep Jackie Speier [CA-12], Rep Fortney Pete Stark [CA-13]; Rep Betty Sutton [OH-13], Rep Paul D. Tonko [NY-21], Rep Edolphus Towns [NY-10], Rep Nydia M. Velazquez[NY-12]. Rep Wasserman Schultz [FL-20], Rep Maxine Waters[CA-35], Rep Diane E. Watson[CA-33], Rep Henry A.Waxman [CA-30], Rep Anthony D Weiner[NY-9], Rep Robert Wexler [FL-19], Rep Lynn C. Woolsey[CA-6]

Is your Member of Congress listed above?

hattip: CHAMP - Comminity HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Jersey Four Film to be Released

As many of you know, I have been working on a documentary about the case of the New Jersey Four. Today we are excited to announce the launch of the website and trailer. We hope this will shed more light on the events that transpired from August 18th.

Unfortunately, we also regret to inform you that nearly six months after her release, Renata Hill was sent back to complete her three and a half year prison term. This Thursday evening, May 7th, CBS news on LOGO TV (check your local listings) will air an exclusive interview with Renata, right before her re-incarceration.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the case here is a brief description. Please check out the new website for more details.

On a hot summer evening in the gay-friendly West Village neighborhood of New York City, seven young women from New Jersey were verbally threatened and physically attacked by a twenty-nine-year-old man. In a not uncommon travesty of justice, the New Jersey Seven, as they came to be called, were sent to prison for defending themselves. The Fire This Time tells the story of the seven women’s trial and prison sentences, and the years-long fight by relatives and activists to get the women released. Along the way, the film reveals in devastating detail how the media, homophobia, and racism all work together in American culture to stigmatize and victimize gay people of color.

We hope this site will help add perspective and awareness to this case and other like it. Please take a minute to check out the website and watch the trailer!

Thank you.
Blair Doroshwalther & The Fire This Time film crew
White House Memo
With Gay Issues in View, Obama Pressed to Engage
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
New York Times - May 7, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Obama was noticeably silent last month when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

But now Mr. Obama — who has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a “fierce advocate of equality” for gay men and lesbians — is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.

Two of Mr. Obama’s potential Supreme Court nominees are openly gay; some advocates, irked that there are no gay men or lesbians in his cabinet, are mounting a campaign to influence his choice to replace Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring. Same-sex marriage is advancing in states — the latest to allow it is Maine — and a new flare-up in the District of Columbia could ultimately put the controversy in the lap of the president.

Mr. Obama’s new global health initiative has infuriated activists who say he is not financing AIDS programs generously enough. And while the president has urged Congress to pass a hate crimes bill, a high priority for gay groups, he has delayed action on one of his key campaign promises, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

Social issues like same-sex marriage bring together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics, and many gay activists, aware that Mr. Obama is also dealing with enormous challenges at home and overseas, have counseled patience.

But some are unsettled by what they see as the president’s cautious approach. Many are still seething over his choice of the Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural, and remain suspicious of Mr. Obama’s commitment to their cause.

In the words of David Mixner, a writer, gay activists are beginning to wonder, “How much longer do we give him the benefit of the doubt?” Last weekend, Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay issues, published an opinion piece in The Washington Post headlined, “Where’s our fierce advocate?”

The White House, aware of the discontent, invited leaders of some prominent gay rights organizations to meet Monday with top officials, including Jim Messina, Mr. Obama’s deputy chief of staff, to plot legislative strategy on the hate crimes bill as well as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Among those attending was Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, who said afterward that while the gay rights agenda might not be “unfolding exactly as we thought,” he was pleased.

“They have a vision,” Mr. Solmonese said. “They have a plan.”

While Mr. Obama has said he is “open to the possibility” that his views on same-sex marriage are misguided, he has offered no signal that he intends to change his position. And as he confronts that and other issues important to gay rights advocates, he faces an array of pressures and risks.

Anything substantive he might say on same-sex marriage — after the Iowa ruling, the White House put out a statement saying the president “respects the decision” — would be endlessly parsed. If Mr. Obama were to embrace same-sex marriage, he would be seen as reversing a campaign position and alienating some moderate and religious voters he has courted.
And if he appoints a gay person to the Supreme Court, he would be viewed by social conservatives — including many black ministers, another of his core constituency groups — as putting a vote for same-sex marriage on the highest court in the land. Two gay women, Kathleen M. Sullivan and Pamela S. Karlan, both of Stanford Law School, have been suggested as potential nominees.

“That would be tantamount to opening the gate for the other side,” said Bishop Harry J. Jackson Jr. of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., who is organizing protests in Washington, where the City Council passed an ordinance this week recognizing same-sex marriages in other states. “If he meant what he said about marriage then I think he has got to stand up and be a president who acts on his beliefs.”

Some say change is inevitable, not only for Mr. Obama but also for other Democratic politicians who have embraced civil unions but rejected same-sex marriage. Now that the Iowa ruling has pushed the battle into the nation’s heartland, the issue will inevitably come up during the 2010 midterm elections and the 2012 presidential campaign.

“We’ve elected probably the most pro-gay president in history; he’s very good on the issues but he is not good on gay marriage,” said Steven Elmendorf, a gay Democratic lobbyist. “From the gay community’s perspective, he and a lot of other elected officials are wrong on this. My view is that over time, they’re going to realize they’re wrong and they’re going to change.”

Mr. Obama has chosen a number of openly gay people for prominent jobs, including Fred P. Hochberg as chairman of the Export-Import Bank and John Berry to run the Office of Personnel Management. And he is the first president to set aside tickets for gay families to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll.

But on legislation, allies of Mr. Obama’s are not surprised that he is charting a careful course. In addition to calling for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military, Mr. Obama supports a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that said states need not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Opponents of same-sex marriage say that is an inconsistency.

Tobias Wolff, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who was Mr. Obama’s top campaign adviser on gay rights, said the president needed time to build political consensus.
“I think he has a genuine sense,” Mr. Wolff said, “that in order to move these issues forward you need broader buy-in than you are going to get if you poke a stick in too many people’s eyes.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Help Iowa See This Message

Contribute to ONE IOWA through Lambda Legal:

Direct Action Urged on Prop 8 Decision Day

Please forward your ideas and suggestions for a possible direct action in the New York Metropolitan Area to Queer Justice League:

In Military, New Debate Over Policy Toward Gays
By Elisabeth Bumiller
New York Times - May 1, 2009

WEST POINT, N.Y. — Here at the military academy that is nearly as old as the nation itself, two cadets recently engaged in a modern debate: whether they agreed with President Obama’s pledge to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly.

“From what I’ve heard from my classmates, people are kind of against it,” said Daniel Szatkowski, a senior from Edmond, Okla. But Adrienne Rolle, a senior from Brooklyn, said she had no problem with lifting the ban, although she said that some of her male classmates did.

“People are more comfortable with ignorance,” Cadet Rolle said of the reality that gay men and lesbians already serve in the military.

West Point is not a perfect microcosm of the armed forces, but recent conversations with the cadets who will become the Army’s next generation of leaders reflect uncertainty about what Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has characterized as a “complex and difficult problem.”

While Mr. Obama has promised to get rid of the 16-year-old policy that allows gay men and lesbians to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation secret, Mr. Gates has said that both he and the president want to push the issue “down the road a bit.”

Advocacy groups have stepped into the vacuum. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which represents some of the 13,000 gay men and lesbians discharged from the military since the policy took effect, is intensifying lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill — changing the policy requires legislation — and calling on the president to make good on his word.

“If he doesn’t speak up, he’s going to end up O.K.’ing the firing of service members for being gay,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the group’s executive director.

In recent years, prominent retired generals and admirals have also urged repeal, among them Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the policy was adopted after a blowup over the issue in the early days of the Clinton administration.

On the other side, some 1,000 retired officers supported by the conservative Center for Military Readiness sent an “open letter” to Mr. Obama saying they were “greatly concerned” about the impact of repeal on recruitment, morale and unit cohesion.

“How would women in the military feel if they were required to accommodate men in their private quarters?” said Elaine Donnelly, the center’s president.

Col. Thomas A. Kolditz, the chairman of West Point’s department of behavioral sciences and leadership who discusses “don’t ask, don’t tell” in his classes, said that cadets were roughly split for and against openly gay service but that most did not feel strongly about their views.

Colonel Kolditz predicted that a large majority would readily follow any order on the issue from the commander in chief, although there was, he said, “a certain amount of unease based on not having clear expectations as to how the implementation would occur.”

Polls now show that the majority of Americans support openly gay service — a majority did not in 1993 — but there have been no recent broad surveys of the current 1.4 million active-duty service members. A 2008 census by The Military Times of predominantly Republican and largely older subscribers found that 58 percent were opposed to efforts to repeal the policy; in 2006, a poll by Zogby International of 545 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found that three-quarters were comfortable around gay service members.

Mr. Gates, for one, has expressed skepticism about how accurately polls reflect true opinion on the policy. “To get people’s real feelings about it, you have to have almost a one-on-one private conversation,” he told reporters last week. “I think it’s very difficult for people to speak in front of their peers on this issue.”

Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has polled more than 80 of his generals on how strongly the Defense Department should challenge the policy, although he has declined to make public the results. Other Pentagon officials are studying how the British, Canadian and Australian militaries lifted their own bans on openly gay service.

At West Point, cadets have been encouraged to discuss the topic openly, so there is less constraint here than in the military over all about publicly airing views on what for now is a law of the land. “You can have feelings and opinions about a law without breaking it,” Colonel Kolditz said.

Faculty members said that cadets’ opinions were often shaped less by the military than by their own personal backgrounds, and that those from religious families or from rural areas were sometimes less comfortable with the idea of openly gay and lesbian service members.

Another factor, faculty members said, was that most students had not yet served in combat units, and so remained apprehensive about what to expect in close quarters from openly gay service members.

Still, a number of cadets reacted to the possible repeal of the law with a shrug. “I really don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal,” said Bill Mynatt, a senior from Knoxville, Tenn. “There are gay soldiers serving and doing their jobs well, and it’s not going to change.”

Cadet Mynatt said that when some classmates expressed the view that openly gay soldiers would make them uncomfortable, left unspoken was the fear of sexual harassment.

“Which is already against regulations,” Cadet Mynatt said. “It’s the same for a gay soldier and a straight soldier.”

Others were less positive. “If President Obama says, ‘Let’s get rid of this policy,’ I guess we don’t have a choice,” said James Buensuceso, a junior from Poway, Calif. The policy, Cadet Buensuceso said, was in place “to protect gays and lesbians from the military.”

Greg Stoner, a senior from Menifee, Calif., said there might be a difference in units once the policy was enacted, “but if it’s done right, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Nathaniel Frank, the author of “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America,” said that while military opinion matters, “we don’t poll the military to decide if we should invade Iraq, to decide if black service members should serve with white ones or if women are needed in combat.” The germane question, he said, was, “Can you work with people who are different from you?”

Colonel Kolditz, while declining to give his personal views, said, “It’s something that should be solved, and I hope it is soon.”