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.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond Endores National Equality March

"GLBT rights are civil rights; there are no 'special
rights' in America. Everyone has rights - or should have - and I am happy to join in this battle for justice and fairness."

- Julian Bond, NAACP Board Chairman

NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond has endorsed the National Equality March.

Metropolitan Community Churches to Support National Equality March on October 11th

“I’m marching in the National Equality March because of its one single demand: 'Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.' We must accept no less and we must work until it is achieved.”
Rev. Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator - Metropolitan Community Churches

Remarks by Rev. Nancy L. Wilson
Office of the Moderator

Dear Friend of Equality:

On Sunday, October 11, 2009, I’ll be marching in the National Equality March in Washington, DC, along with tens of thousands of supporters of justice and equality.

I hope you’ll join me for this historic event in the ongoing struggle to achieve equality under the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens within the United States.

Let me share with you why I, along with the entire MCC Board of Elders, am supporting the National Equality March in Washington, DC.

I’m marching in the National Equality March… because MCC has a history of being at every March on Washington to take a public stand for LGBT equality under the law.

I’m marching in the National Equality March… because it offers an opportunity for a new generation of LGBT youth and supporters who have never marched to become involved in the vital work of justice.

I’m marching in the National Equality March… because I believe it is important for people of faith to have a visible presence before our government’s leaders in the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court.

I’m marching in the National Equality March… because of its one single demand: “Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.” I agree with the March’s organizers — we must accept no less and we must work until it is achieved.

I’m marching in the National Equality March… because its theme touches the key issues facing our LGBT communities: repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, immigration reform that recognizes same-sex couples and includes our LGBT families, an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that ends workplace discrimination for everyone, hate crimes legislation that includes LGBT people, and the equal right to adopt children and raise our families without government restrictions.

I’m marching in the National Equality March… because this is one March in which we’re not forced to choose between whether to address national issues or to support state and local organizing. The March’s organizers are mobilizing grassroots support in all 435 local congressional districts and carrying our voices to the federal government.

I’m marching in the National Equality March… because we must hold the President accountable for his campaign promises. Justice must never be postponed; equality must not be delayed.

The time is right for this National Equality March. It will take place during National Coming Out Day, the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder, and the 30th anniversary of the first March on Washington for LGBT rights.

This March will achieve what every past March on Washington has accomplished: It will make voices heard at the federal government, give national visibility to the LGBT equality movement, and birth a new generation of activists with a passion for justice and equality.

That’s why I and the full Board of Elders of Metropolitan Community Churches encourage you to join us in Washington, DC, in October.

Together, let us march on Washington… and demand equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.

Together, let us march on Washington… to hold our government officials accountable and to work for the realization of full equality for all people as envisioned inn our country’s founding documents.

Together, let us march on Washington… and together, let’s make history during October 10-12, 2009!

The Reverend Nancy L. Wilson

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is It The LGBTQ Movement or President Obama?



The September 2009 cover story of the Advocate ponders -
"As a candidate Obama promised us a lot; as president he’s delivered very little -- and many gay people are getting impatient. Does the outcry unmask this president’s indifference, or reveal our own impotence as a movement?"

Read the excellent essay from the Advocate
Hope and History by Michael Joseph Gross

Equality California Urges 2012 Marriage Battle

Equality California released its findings and recommendations favoring a new electoral battle in the year 2012. Here is a copy of their report: Winning Back Marriage Equality in California - Analysis and Plan

Meanwhile the Courage Campaign also based in California proceeded with its plans for achieving marriage in 2010. The Advocate.com reports that: "On Tuesday, Courage Campaign chair Rick Jacobs asked members to raise $42,000 within 60 hours to help decide the timing of the measure. As of Wednesday morning, the organization reported that it had received donations totaling $77,905 within just 24 hours, raising their total amount available for research, polling, and focus groups to $135,998."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

HRC Endorses National Equality March

“With thousands of LGBT people and allies coming to Washington to make a difference, it’s our mission to help them become the citizen lobbyists that they want and need to be.”
Joe Solmonese - President, Human Rights Campaign



Statement of Human Rights Campaign on

National Equality March in Washington

WASHINGTON — On October 11, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists and allies will meet by the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. The first national gathering of LGBT volunteers, community members, and supporters since the 2008 elections and the passage of Proposition 8, this event provides a powerful opportunity to harness the energy-both excitement and anger-that this historic year has sparked.

“The Human Rights Campaign considers October 11 in Washington DC to be a starting point-not a destination,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Those who join us in the nation’s capital have more work ahead of them after the crowds clear. They need to become citizen lobbyists, ready and able to tell their Senators and members of Congress what this community needs to see: an ENDA that protects every single one of us. Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Repeal of DOMA. Protections for our families.”

HRC will train march participants to initiate and carry out successful in-district lobby visits-whether they come to DC in person, or take their activism on line. Similar to the successful “No Excuses” campaign (www.noexcuses.hrc.org), HRC’s work with the October 11 event will focus on mobilizing face-to-face meetings between community members and their lawmakers.

“With thousands of LGBT people and allies coming to Washington to make a difference, it’s our mission to help them become the citizen lobbyists that they want and need to be,” said Solmonese. “Cleve Jones’s vision of bringing us together at this important time is an extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on the energy and commitment of our community and achieve results.

“I’ve heard criticism about this gathering diverting resources from existing goals such as marriage equality in Maine and New Jersey,” added Solmonese. “It’s our intention and our obligation to ensure that in October, we amplify our energy not divert it. Will and commitment are unlimited resources. We intend to ensure that when the event in Washington is over, many more of us will know not only the work that lies ahead, but how to turn that energy into action.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Viewpoint From A Queer Tel Aviv Activist - On the Recent Shootings & Current Conditions in Israel

On Saturday, August 1st 2009, a murder rooted in homophobia and hatred occurred. This murder is a direct result of the violence in Israeli society.

During an outburst of unity we, activists from various pink communities, want to say that we are afraid.

We are afraid to live in a militant and violent society, which oppresses basic human rights of the different communities that live along side of it;

A society where hatred and homophobia became transparent; A society that allows this homophobia in its conducts and values;

A society in which we have to hide that we are afraid.

Israel is presented around the world as a democracy of freedom and equality, and the gay community is brought as an example of it. We do not want to take part in this dangerous illusion.

We call for a substantial change in the social agenda, one that does not talk about acceptance through similarity and belonging to the consensus, but rather through acceptance of all the different shades in society.

MP3 Audio file click here

Comments by Ishai Mishory
Pink Coalition, Tel Aviv, Israel
Take Back the Night March - 08.06.2009
Hahashmal Garden, Tel Aviv, Israel

Mixner Says - The Clock is Ticking

from 08.09.2009
DavidMixner.com

Congress is in recess and soon it will be September. And we, as a community, are running out of time.

We will have no better opportunity than the last seven months to effect major significant change on the LGBT struggle for freedom. We have sixty members of the Democratic party in the Senate, the President's credibility has been high, the nation was primed for major change and people are focused on their jobs and their livelihoods and not divisive social issues. Most likely by the end of the year, most of those factors will start to change and the struggle for our liberation will become more difficult. There is no guarantee that ever again in the Obama Administration will we have so much going for us to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," repeal DOMA and continue the march to the envitablity of marriage equality. Now is the not the time to pull back and wait on some neat and cozy time table.

Here we are well into the Obama administration and basically we have an executive 'memo' for federal employees rights that doesn't even cover insurance or pension. We had a good Gay Pride party at the White House and some talented people tapped for some appointments. Yet, that being said, right now not one openly LGBT Ambassador has been appointed. Hate Crimes has still not been officially passed. ENDA, which should be a no- brainer has not even been up for a vote. There has been no "stop-loss"order for our LGBT service members. DOMA still represents a major barrier to marriage equality. Obama has yet to make appearances outside the White House before LGBT groups. Not a peep has been spoken about Proposition 8 or even our victories in Iowa, Maine and New Hampshire. The White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, continues to dance around any LGBT issue. The record, so far, is dismal and sad.

It is not too late but the clock is ticking. There is no question now that neither the White House nor the Democratic Congress is going to make this easy for us. The ball is not in their court, it is in our court. We must be an aggressively unrelenting civil rights movement that will not accept any delay. Isn't it amazing that the crazies can fill Congressional Town Hall meetings waving tea bags and idiotically chanting "Just say no!", yet as a community after all the money spent over the years we still can't fill rooms at Town Hall meetings with people quietly and intelligently demanding justice and freedom for the LGBT community? Just exactly what are we doing? Can you imagine 250 Town Hall meeting packed with hundreds of people demanding an end to this American Apartheid? Where are our people? Where are our leaders? We have increasingly become invisible in this first year.

This is one of the reasons that I believe October's March for National Equality is so important. I have no idea how successful it will be nor how many will attend. I am encouraged, I am hopeful, but only a fool would give a sound prediction. But this I do know: Speaking up and making a statement in Washington on October 11 is better than silence and enabling our oppressors. 100,000 in Washington DC on October 11 is better than empty town hall meetings with our members of Congress. Gathering as a tribe to inspire our young and create a sense of community as we enter the next phase of our struggle for freedom is better than writing statements to urge our young to wait. These things I know without a doubt.

Next year we will be told that the LGBT community must be patient because we have to re-elect a Democratic Congress. After all, the Speaker has to get all those "Blue Dog Democrats" elected so we can maintain control and the President can continue his good work. I promise you they will be asking us to wait until 2011 and give us more empty promises.

Now is the time. No more "Oh Lord, Not Now" leadership. Fill a bus, fill a plane, get your straight friends and supportive family members and get to DC on October 11 and make some noise.

The clock is ticking.

Monday, August 10, 2009

National Kiss-In Event Video - NYC Event - Battery Park this Saturday - 08/15/09


Saturday, August 15, 2009
1:30 PM Battery Park
Meet between Hope Garden - the HIV/AIDS memorial, & Castle Clinton
Downtown Manhattan, NYC

NYT's Frank Rich - Obama is No True Reformer


Is Obama Punking Us?
By Frank Rich
August 9, 2009
New York Times Op-Ed Columnist

“AUGUST is a challenging time to be president,” said Andrew Card, the former Bush White House chief of staff, as he offered unsolicited advice to his successors in a television interview last week. “I think you have to expect the unexpected.”

He should know. Thursday was the eighth anniversary of “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” the President’s Daily Brief that his boss ignored while on vacation in Crawford. Aug. 29 marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s strike on the Louisiana coast, which his boss also ignored while on vacation in Crawford.

So do have a blast in Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama.

Even as we wait for some unexpected disaster to strike, Beltway omens for the current White House are grim. Obama’s poll numbers are approaching free fall, we are told. If he fails on health care, he’s toast. Indeed, many of the bloviators who spot a fatal swoon in the Obama presidency are the same doomsayers who in August 2008 were predicting his Election Day defeat because he couldn’t “close the deal” and clear the 50 percent mark in matchups with John McCain.

Here are two not very daring predictions: Obama will get some kind of health care reform done come fall. His poll numbers will not crater any time soon.

Yet there is real reason for longer-term worry in the form of a persistent, anecdotal drift toward disillusionment among some of the president’s supporters. And not merely those on the left. This concern was perhaps best articulated by an Obama voter, a real estate agent in Virginia, featured on the front page of The Washington Post last week. “Nothing’s changed for the common guy,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been punked.” She cited in particular the billions of dollars in bailouts given to banks that still “act like they’re broke.”

But this mood isn’t just about the banks, Public Enemy No. 1. What the Great Recession has crystallized is a larger syndrome that Obama tapped into during the campaign. It’s the sinking sensation that the American game is rigged — that, as the president typically put it a month after his inauguration, the system is in hock to “the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few” who have “run Washington far too long.” He promised to smite them.

No president can do that alone, let alone in six months. To make Obama’s goal more quixotic, the ailment that he diagnosed is far bigger than Washington and often beyond politics’ domain. What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media.

It’s a cynicism confirmed almost daily by events. Last week Brian Stelter of The Times reported that the corporate bosses of MSNBC and Fox News, Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric and Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation, had sanctioned their lieutenants to broker what a G.E. spokesman called a new “level of civility” between their brawling cable stars, Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly. A Fox spokesman later confirmed to Howard Kurtz of The Post that “there was an agreement” at least at the corporate level. Olbermann said he was a “party to no deal,” and in any event what looked like a temporary truce ended after The Times article was published. But the whole scrape only fed legitimate suspicions on the right and left alike that even their loudest public voices can be silenced if the business interests of the real American elite decree it.

You might wonder whether networks could some day cut out the middlemen — anchors — and just put covert lobbyists and publicists on the air to deliver the news. Actually, that has already happened. The most notorious example was the flock of retired military officers who served as television “news analysts” during the Iraq war while clandestinely lobbying for defense contractors eager to sell their costly wares to the Pentagon.

The revelation of that scandal did not end the practice. Last week MSNBC had to apologize for deploying the former Newsweek writer Richard Wolffe as a substitute host for Olbermann without mentioning his new career as a corporate flack. Wolffe might still be anchoring on MSNBC if the blogger Glenn Greenwald hadn’t called attention to his day job. MSNBC assured its viewers that there were no conflicts of interest, but we must take that on faith, since we still don’t know which clients Wolffe represents as a senior strategist for his firm, Public Strategies, whose chief executive is the former Bush White House spin artist, Dan Bartlett.

Let’s presume that Wolffe’s clients do not include the corporate interests with billions at stake in MSNBC and Washington’s Topic A, the health care debate. If so, he’s about the only player in the political-corporate culture who’s not riding that gravy train.

As Democrats have pointed out, the angry hecklers disrupting town-hall meetings convened by members of Congress are not always ordinary citizens engaging in spontaneous grass-roots protests or even G.O.P. operatives, but proxies for corporate lobbyists. One group facilitating the screamers is FreedomWorks, which is run by the former Congressman Dick Armey, now a lobbyist at the DLA Piper law firm. Medicines Company, a global pharmaceutical business, has paid DLA Piper more than $6 million in lobbying fees in the five years Armey has worked there.

But the Democratic members of Congress those hecklers assailed can hardly claim the moral high ground. Their ties to health care interests are merely more discreet and insidious. As Congressional Quarterly reported last week, industry groups contributed almost $1.8 million in the first six months of 2009 alone to the 18 House members of both parties supervising health care reform, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer among them.

Then there are the 52 conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who have balked at the public option for health insurance. Their cash intake from insurers and drug companies outpaces their Democratic peers by an average of 25 percent, according to The Post. And let’s not forget the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which has raked in nearly $500,000 from a single doctor-owned hospital in McAllen, Tex. — the very one that Obama has cited as a symbol of runaway medical costs ever since it was profiled in The New Yorker this spring.

In this maze of powerful moneyed interests, it’s not clear who any American in either party should or could root for. The bipartisan nature of the beast can be encapsulated by the remarkable progress of Billy Tauzin, the former Louisiana congressman. Tauzin was a founding member of the Blue Dog Democrats in 1994. A year later, he bolted to the Republicans. Now he is chief of PhRMA, the biggest pharmaceutical trade group. In the 2008 campaign, Obama ran a television ad pillorying Tauzin for his role in preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices. Last week The Los Angeles Times reported — and The New York Times confirmed — that Tauzin, an active player in White House health care negotiations, had secured a behind-closed-doors flip-flop, enlisting the administration to push for continued protection of drug prices. Now we know why the president has ducked his campaign pledge to broadcast such negotiations on C-Span.

The making of legislative sausage is never pretty. The White House has to give to get. But the cynicism being whipped up among voters is justified. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose chief presidential campaign strategist unapologetically did double duty as a high-powered corporate flack, Obama promised change we could actually believe in.

His first questionable post-victory step was to assemble an old boys’ club of Robert Rubin protégés and Goldman-Citi alumni as the White House economic team, including a Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who failed in his watchdog role at the New York Fed as Wall Street’s latest bubble first inflated and then burst. The questions about Geithner’s role in adjudicating the subsequent bailouts aren’t going away, and neither is the angry public sense that the fix is still in. We just learned that nine of those bailed-out banks — which in total received $175 billion of taxpayers’ money, but as yet have repaid only $50 billion — are awarding a total of $32.6 billion in bonuses for 2009.

It’s in this context that Obama can’t afford a defeat on health care. A bill will pass in a Democrat-controlled Congress. What matters is what’s in it. The final result will be a CAT scan of those powerful Washington interests he campaigned against, revealing which have been removed from the body politic (or at least reduced) and which continue to metastasize. The Wall Street regulatory reform package Obama pushes through, or doesn’t, may render even more of a verdict on his success in changing the system he sought the White House to reform.

The best political news for the president remains the Republicans. It’s a measure of how out of touch G.O.P. leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are that they keep trying to scare voters by calling Obama a socialist. They have it backward. The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy. If anything, the most unexpected — and challenging — event that could rock the White House this August would be if the opposition actually woke up.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Change Comes Home - Congressional Meetings Initiative Announced




Equality Across America and Join The Impact are encouraging groups of LGBT people to meet with their elected Representative in their local district during the month of August.

"While our US Representatives return home for a month of recess, we will meet with them to share our stories and to build a national movement from the ground up. If you've never met with your Representative before, don't worry...there's nothing to be afraid of! It doesn't take any special skills or experience. It just takes a passion for equal rights, and a willingness to speak up for what's right."

Queer Justice League will be helping to coordinate meetings in New Jersey's 13th Congressional District (Hudson County also parts of Essex, Middlesex & Union Counties) with Representative Albio Sires; New York's 14th Congressional District (Manhattan's East Side - Roosevelt Island -Astoria/Sunnyside/Long Island City in Queens) with Representative Carolyn Maloney; and New York's 8th Congressional District(Manhattan's West Side - Borough Park, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, & Seagate in Brooklyn) with Representative Jerold Nadler. We have choosen these districts because most of our activism has been in these areas. QJL will also be working in coalition with existing groups in the NY-NJ Metro area to encourage participation in these local meetings through the creation of District Teams and also to garner support for the NATIONAL EQUALITY MARCH in October.

Please contact us directly to help with these meetings.

Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! - Frederick Douglas


Agitation (āj'ĭ-tā'shən) - a persistent annoyance that eventually evokes a response. Agitation is a real world cause and effect leading to change. Change, whether "good or bad" can be measured against the real-world impact (result) of agitation at the "top". - js (from WIKI Answers online)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mel White Endorses Expanded Civil Rights Act to Include LGBT People

Remarks by Mel White
40th Anniversary of Stonewall
June 29th, 2009

Here at Stonewall, we stand in the shadow of giants who refused to accept their second class citizenship. They would be outcasts no more! Now with their voices echoing in our hearts, we have come to take our stand as well. In a 1965 interview, Dr. King made it clear that it is far past time to liberate African Americans from their second class citizenship. These are his words. I’ve edited them simply to call for the liberation of LGBT Americans as well.

“Why do straight people find it so difficult to understand that LGBT Americans are sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to them those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America? We never cease to wonder at the amazing presumption of much of straight society, assuming that they have the right to bargain with LGBT Americans for their freedom. This continued arrogant ladling out of pieces of the rights of citizenship has begun to generate a growing discontent in the LGBT community. What LGBT Americans want is absolute and unqualified freedom and equality here in this land of our birth. LGBT Americans no longer will be tolerant of anything less than our due right and heritage. We are pursuing only that which we know is honorably ours.

“Most straight Americans support the struggle to eradicate injustice; nevertheless they feel that LGBT Americans should be more patient, that only the passage of time – perhaps generations – will bring about the sweeping changes we demand…

“We say, with Dr. King, that the time is always right to do what is right…Increasingly we realize that time has been used destructively by people of ill will much more than it has been used constructively by those of good will…We wonder at straight Americans who dare to feel that they have some paternalistic right to set the timetable for the liberation of LGBT Americans. We are often inclined to think that our moderate “friends” are more of a stumbling block to the progress of LGBT Americans than Pat Robertson, James Dobson and other leaders of the Christian right.”

We have a growing concern that our new President is listening to those same “moderates” who counsel that it is too early to take on ENDA or DOMA or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These are difficult times, they whisper. LGBT Americans have waited this long. They are amazingly patient. They will understand if we ask them to wait a little longer.

We are here to say to our President and to members of the House and Senate that we do not understand. That we cannot “wait a little longer.” Our sisters and brothers have suffered injustice, intolerance and discrimination far too long: harassed, hunted down and hounded out of the military; denied employment and housing, refused the rights of marriage and ordination; left out of hate crime legislation all the while being primary victims of hate in all its vicious forms. We are second class citizens at best. Worse, we are outcasts in the nation we love and serve. (Page 353, Testament of Hope).

It is time to do what is right and including LGBT Americans in the Civil Rights Legislation of 1964 is right. We hope and pray that this time truth will prevail and justice will flow down like a mighty stream.


Mel White is founder of Soulforce.org and author of Stranger At The Gate: To Be Gay & Christian in America.

HRC Seeks Local Action On An Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Obama Said 'I Don't.' He May Just Mean It.
by James Kirchick
Washington Post - 02.02.2009

Last month, former president Bill Clinton joined the increasing number of Democratic politicians who publicly back same-sex marriage. Granted, Clinton's endorsement -- offered in response to a questioner at a Washington conference for liberal college activists -- was heavily qualified: Clinton said he is "basically in support" of providing legal recognition to gay couples. This latter-day epiphany from the man who signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions, earned warm praise from gay activists. "I personally support people doing what they want to do," Clinton said, and people seemed to believe his apparent change of heart.

Others, however, claimed to know that he has been for gay marriage all along. Kerry Eleveld, Washington correspondent for the Advocate, wrote that "no one ever really believed [Clinton] opposed marriage equality. Call it craven politics, but everyone knows Clinton signed DOMA into law before the '96 election to avoid a potential GOP family-values offensive at the ballot box." Eleveld and others contend that support for same-sex marriage among liberal elected officials is a given. It's just that pesky political exigencies prevent them from publicly expressing their "real" beliefs.

There's no doubt that part of Clinton's motivation for signing DOMA was to prevent the Republican Party from using it as a wedge issue. But whether or not that law went against his actual convictions, it is part of Clinton's legacy to the gay community, along with "don't ask, don't tell." Repealing both is the most important task of the gay rights movement today.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the movement can't count on support from the current president either. When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Clinton's comments, he told reporters that his boss "does not support" same-sex marriage. "He supports civil unions," Gibbs assured. And despite President Obama's statement that he opposes the ban on gays serving openly in the military, Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.) last week said that the White House pressured him to withdraw an amendment that would have prohibited funds from being spent on investigating "don't ask, don't tell" violations.

Even if Obama does in fact believe in marriage equality, he hasn't done -- and is unlikely to do -- much to forward the cause. And apart from some toothless sniping from a handful of gay activists and donors, he seems to be getting away with it. In this way, the presumed (yet secret) good intentions of Democrats can wind up doing more harm than good: They tell the gay community that Democrats are at least better than the GOP, thus providing an excuse that can be employed endlessly while they stall.

This trust in covert backing from liberal elected officials is an article of faith among most supporters of same-sex marriage. In a recent interview with Newsweek, gay playwright Tony Kushner spoke of Obama's secret belief in the righteousness of same-sex marriage as if it were painfully obvious. "Pbbbht! Of course he's in favor of gay marriage!" Kushner exclaimed. His views were echoed by Steve Hildebrand, a gay political consultant who served as Obama's deputy national campaign director. "I do believe that in his heart he will fight his tail off until we've achieved full equality in the gay community," he told journalist Rex Wockner. I've lost track of the number of liberal friends and acquaintances, gay and straight alike, who assure me that Obama "really" supports same-sex marriage and, furthermore, that this point is obvious.

How can they be so sure? People want to like political leaders, and when someone as charismatic as Clinton or Obama comes along, it's easy to ignore the facts that get in the way of an idealized image. That liberal politicians are indifferent -- if not outright opposed -- to same-sex marriage stands at utter odds with liberals' notion of an enlightened community of like-minded progressives. "Does anybody actually believe that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama think that we shouldn't have -- that this man who is a constitutional-law scholar -- is it a complicated issue?" Kushner sputtered, as if anyone who disagreed were an imbecile.

Because people such as Kushner view political liberalism as a positive personality trait and not just a worldview, they assume that someone who opposed the Iraq war and sees himself as a "citizen of the world" would also believe in the right of gays to marry. People cannot conceive that such a cosmopolitan and eloquent man as Obama would disagree with them on an issue that they consider a no-brainer.

This is convenient for liberals because it allows them to deflect blame from politicians they like onto those they don't, namely conservatives, the sincerity of whose opposition to same-sex marriage they never challenge. If only Republicans desisted in their homophobia, this narrative goes, justifiably timid liberals would come out of their closets of prevarication, so to speak, and support gay marriage unambiguously.

Framing gay rights as a strictly partisan issue also allows liberals to obscure the awkward fact that while they are more likely than conservatives to support same-sex marriage, a key Democratic constituency, African Americans, overwhelmingly opposes it.

Obama's history on the issue does have a complicating twist. On a 1996 Illinois Senate race questionnaire, Obama (or more likely a staffer) wrote, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." Liberals take from this revelation the assumption that Obama's apparent flip was insincere.

But there is nothing in his record since he became a national political figure that should give them any reason to think he will revert to his supposedly pro-gay-marriage position. And if Obama actually does believe in same-sex marriage, that makes his public opposition to it worse than it would be if he were genuinely opposed. How is it in any way reassuring to liberals to suppose that a politician agrees with them while selling them down the river? Even if Obama's apparent flip isn't genuine, he nonetheless acts as if it were, rendering his supposedly silent support worthless in tangible political terms. Whatever he "really" thinks, Obama's stance on gay marriage is virtually indistinguishable from that of John McCain.

For some time, liberal politicians have taken a largely wink-and-nod approach to gay issues. They've done so with the excuse that the culture must catch up before any progress can be made (an excuse that conveniently doesn't apply to other liberal interest groups, such as unions and trial lawyers, that do very well when Democrats are in power). Obama paid tribute to this timeworn tactic recently when he told gay activists at the White House: "I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, but by the promises my administration keeps. By the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."

Talking about "feelings" is a cuddly liberal pastime, and Obama's promise conjures up the phrase that Clinton famously entered into our political lexicon when he told an angry AIDS activist, "I feel your pain." Maybe now, when it comes to same-sex marriage, he finally does. But it would be nice to have a sitting president whose feelings translate into action.

James Kirchick (jkirchick@tnr.com) is an assistant editor of the New Republic and a contributing writer to the Advocate.

National Equality March Coming in October

Shooting May Have Been Personal

Motives unclear in Tel Aviv attack
Jewish Telegraphic Agency - 08.04.2009

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Israeli police remain unsure whether the weekend murders at a Tel Aviv gay community center constitute a hate crime.

"There is no clear evidence at this stage indicating that this was a hate crime," said a source involved in the investigation, according to Ha'aretz.

Among the possibilities investigators are considering is that the crime was motivated by a personal dispute rather than antipathy toward gays.

The police have called on Israelis not to blame any sector of the public for the crime, which shocked the nation.

The attack killed two: Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Troboushi, 17. Four others remain in the hospital, two in intensive care.

Monday, August 3, 2009

NYC Vigil For Those Killed in Israel

There will be a vigil in support of the victims of Saturday's shooting at the LGBT Youth Center in Tel Aviv and to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel.

When:
Wednesday, August 5th, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Where:
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah
57 Bethune Street (between Washington & West Streets)
Manhattan

National Equality March In October

reprinted from Bilerico.com (06.15.2009)
Cleve Jones Responds: 10 Reasons Why a March Isn't a Bad Idea

On June 8, 2009, Bil Browning of Bilerico Project attacked the planned march on Washington scheduled for October 11 in a post entitled: "10 reasons why a march on Washington is a bad idea." Bill, and other critics of the march are wrong on all ten counts and here's why.

In his first paragraph, Bil references a speech I gave in Salt Lake City during Utah Pride to announce the march. The speech is posted on YouTube, but apparently Bil didn't actually view it. If he had he would have known that the march is not just about Prop. 8 or California or marriage equality, but for equal protection under the law in all matters governed by civil law, in all fifty states.

Point 1: "Planning a march on Washington isn't something you can throw together in five months."
Wrong. We've learned from Join the Impact, Meet in the Middle and others that large and powerful events can be organized with lightening speed.

Point 2: "The Mall is already reserved on October 11... Cleve and Co. have already been denied a permit for that day."
Wrong. The West Capitol lawn is available and has been reserved - by us. The DC Police, Capitol Police and the National Park Service are all cooperating with us to accommodate a crowd of any size.

Point 3: "Congress isn't in session on October 11th, what's the point when participants can't lobby?"
Wrong. The most effective form of citizen lobbying occurs at home, in local districts, when people who live and work and vote in that district engage their representatives in long term dialogue. That's why we're building this march in all 435 Congressional districts.

Point 4: "None of the large organizations have been consulted...its just a small circle of people."
Wrong. A large and growing network of grassroots activists from throughout the country is coordinating the march. Perhaps Bil believes that we should have achieved a consensus from all the leaders and organizations before calling for the march. A consensus in our community? Get real. What we are offering is a clear unifying demand, a philosophy and a strategy. Individuals are free to support it, criticize it or ignore it as they choose.

Point 5: "A do-nothing march on Washington is a tactical mistake."
Well, of course, a do-nothing march would be a total waste of time. This march is an organizing vehicle to create a national grassroots movement to change votes in Congress. That's the purpose.

Point 6: "A march on Washington will not bring marriage equality to the flyover states... the coastal queers are willing to sacrifice us on the alter of domesticity."
Wrong. In fact, only federal action will bring full equality to all of our people in all fifty states. The march and other actions that focus on Federal intervention are urgently required. And could we please stop using strategies and rhetoric that divide us by state or region? The 14th Amendment of the Constitution is supposed to protect us all.

Point 7: "California is not the end-all-be-all of queer America."
Agreed. But wrong, again, if you think that's what we believe. Read what we are actually saying, it's clear that this march is not about California or any other single state. It's about all of us. And it's about building queer political power to win equality, combat homophobia and fight for HIV/AIDS funding.

Point 8: "Not too many of us can afford to take a vacation to DC."
Yes, times are hard, but if you want to wait until the economy improves before we push for equality you may be waiting a long time. We're organizing frugally, not planning a 3-day multimedia extravaganza. Roundtrip airfare from the West Coast is available now online for less than $300. Millions of equality advocates live within a few hours drive or train trip of DC. The march is going to be huge. While many will not be able to attend, they can hold support rallies in their hometowns or engage in other actions to support our goal.

Point 9: "The majority of US queers still need basic protections from discrimination."
If you would take them time to review our statements and my speeches on the issue, we have only one demand: equal protection under the law, in all matters governed by civil law, in all fifty states." We reject further compromises and delays.

Point 10: "Cleve's quotes are all about Prop. 8, California and same sex marriage."
Wrong. View the speech, read anything I've published since last November. It's all about full equality now. And please don't complain that the media will only focus on marriage rights when you're exacerbating the problem by misrepresenting our statements.

The October 11 march and rally in Washington, DC, offer our community a powerful opportunity to protest the lack of action from President Obama and the Congress. It's an important way to express our anger while building the foundation for a nationwide grassroots movement to change votes in Congress. The organizers are all volunteers, operating with a stripped down, barebones budget and committed to doing the hard, often tedious work of organizing in all 435 Congressional districts.

The events of the past week have made it abundantly clear that President Obama and the Democratic leadership are turning their backs on our community and reneging on their promises. We need to march in Washington on October 11, then return to our home districts and get to work.

A few more words on the date, October 11, 2009:
- It is National Coming Out Day.
- The anniversary of Mathew Shepard's murder is Oct. 12.
- It is the 30th anniversary of the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
- It's a 3-day weekend for students, government employees and many others.
- The weather is generally favorable. It is a weekend that has been used historically by our community for marches and for displays of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Join us: http://www.nationalequalitymarch.com/

hattip: bilerico.com
Cleve Jones Responds: 10 Reasons Why a March Isn't a Bad Idea - 06.15.2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Tel Aviv Gunman Still at-Large

Anti-Gay Murders Rock Tel Aviv
Police hunting for gunman who killed two in LGBT youth center
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
Gay City News 08.02.2009

One day after a masked gunman opened fire at an LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv, killing two and wounding 13 others, Associated Press reports that hundreds of Israeli police are combing nearby streets in an effort to track down the murderer.

Ynetnews.com identified the two killed as Nir Katz, a 26-year-old counselor at the club, and Liz Trubeshi, alternately reported as 17 or 16.

The August 1 attack targeted a weekly event held for LGBT teens in a club in the basement of the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association. The club offers counseling and a place to gather and socialize for youth, many of whom have not yet come out.

Tel Aviv is widely considered a more cosmopolitan city than Jerusalem, with a large and vibrant LGBT community. Reuters quoted Avi Sofer, a gay activist, saying, "The biggest shock is to think that it happened in Tel Aviv, which is the most tolerant city in the country.”

Four of the 13 taken to the hospital were described as having serious injuries. The Israeli media was full of pictures showing the blood-stained aftermath of the attack, and witnesses described an horrific scene, with bodies strewn on the floor surrounding a billiards table.

Within hours of the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the killer, "We'll bring him to justice and exercise the full extent of the law against him." President Shimon Peres described the shootings as "despicable murder" that "a cultured and enlightened people cannot accept.”

Police are keeping a tight lid on details of their investigation, concerned that it could be compromised by leaks.

Nitzan Horowitz, the only openly gay member of the Knesset, described the killings as a “hate crime.”

"We demand that the government put an end to this hate campaign and that the Education Ministry institute proper information and education at schools in order to prevent the recurrence of such shameful events," Horowitz said, according to Reuters.

Israel’s chief rabbis also condemned the attack.

But the Associated Press quoted Mike Hamel of the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association, which sponsors the youth center, as blaming religious extremists for the killings.

"Beyond the pain, the frustration, and the anger, we are facing a situation in which the incitement to hate creates an environment that allows this to happen," Hamel said.

In recent years, gay pride celebrations in Israel have faced hostile responses from Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who take to the streets to voice their opposition to shows of LGBT visibility.

In 2005, one ultra-Orthodox anti-gay protester stabbed three marchers in a Jerusalem gay pride parade, and according to the AP, last year a Knesset member from the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party said earthquakes were God’s punishment for Israel’s tolerance of the gay and lesbian community.

Shas Party leaders on August 2 condemned the attacks.

The Associated Press quoted Rona Keinan, a songwriter and LGBT activist, saying of the club that youth “go there because it is a refuge of sorts for them."

"The very thought that a person might enter that protected space and simply open fire at them is shocking,” Keinan wrote in the daily Yediot Ahrono. “I just want to cry.”

Israelis by the hundreds and thousands took to the streets, in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, on both Saturday and Sunday, to voice their outrage over the shootings.

According to Ynetnews, Nir Katz’s stepfather said of the 26-year-old youth counselor, "He believed in his own way, lived with a boyfriend for years. His goal was to help people who were struggling and who were still in the closet. He considered it a mission."

Liz Trubeshi’s family was described as “closed off in their home.”

"We are hurting and are having a hard time,” Trubeshi’s aunt Cindy said, according to Ynetnews. “It's hard to talk about it."

An unidentified friend of Trubeshi’s was quoted saying, “She was very quiet in class. A closed-off and introverted person. I don't know what to say, she didn't even turn 17. She didn't talk about her sexual orientation but was very open on the gay-lesbian issue."

Come to the National Equality March - October 11, 2009