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161 posts from July 2009

July 31, 2009

D.C. Council eliminates earmarks for social service programs

The Washington Post reports that the D.C. Council today unanimously adopted a revised FY 2010 budget that raises taxes and cuts spending to close a projected $666 million deficit over the next three years. On the receiving end of the cuts are a number of LGBT groups: the DC Center, Transgender Health Empowerment, and the Mautner Project.

Mayor Fenty had proposed a 60 percent cut in the earmarks, but Council Chairman Vincent Gray reportedly pushed to eliminate them altogether. Here is what the Post says about the earmarks:

Members also agreed to eliminate earmarks for arts and social service organizations. In addition to saving money, Gray is trying to respond to the controversy over council member Marion Barry's (D-Ward 8) use of the earmark process to divert money to several organizations in Ward 8.

GLAA Secretary Miguel Tuason last week joined several other LGBT community activists at a hearing chaired by Gray, in which they defended the LGBT service organizations against the proposed cuts. We understood that times are tough and a lot of others were facing the same pain, but it seems that the Council took the easy path of just cutting everything rather than making tough choices. To a significant degree, our community groups are being hit by stray bullets from the controversy over misuse of earmarks by Councilmember Barry.

We ourselves have had qualms about the use of earmarks as a way of bypassing the normal budget process, but we are pragmatists and made peace with it in light of the services being provided by the recipient organizations that were not otherwise being provided. Responsible nonprofits providing much-needed services should not be lumped in with the do-nothing recipients of Boss Barry's largesse.

If the Council were going to rethink its approach to earmarks, it should have done so with more advance notice so that the affected nonprofits could make alternate plans, including seeking to place appropriate grant monies in the regular budget. By suddenly cutting previously approved funds at the last minute — and not just by 60 percent as proposed by Fenty — the Council has left many vital service organizations in the lurch. If one considers that public budgets are not just about the bottom line but about the lives of the people affected by them, the irresponsible way the Council has handled this financial crisis becomes painfully evident.

Cooper Cafritz home, art collection destroyed by fire

Cafritz The Washington Post reports on the tragic fire that destroyed the home and art collection of former D.C. Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and a friend of the LGBT community:

Just a week ago, Jack Shainman, a New York art dealer, visited the home of Peggy Cooper Cafritz. He brought with him small photographs attached to pendants, given to him by artist Kerry James Marshall. Last Thursday, Shainman hung the images on Marshall's "Power to the People," a 2005 sculpture that Shainman describes as "accumulative," meaning that the artist, over his lifetime, continues to add to it. In a manner reminiscent of certain African art techniques, the work is intended to grow and take on new meanings.

Marshall's work was among those lost in the fire that destroyed Cafritz's mansion on Chain Bridge Road in Northwest Washington on Wednesday night.

The August issue of Oprah magazine features an article and a photographic tour of the house.

It was terrible turning on the TV early Thursday morning and seeing the flames that engulfed Peggy’s home on Chain Bridge Road — a home she opened to many people over the years, in support of many causes. I was heartsick thinking of her wonderful art collection, which I had the privilege of seeing at community events she hosted. I don’t know what we can do for her, but if she had not a penny she would be rich from reaping but a fraction of the generosity she has sown. I hope the love that flows back to her in the days ahead gives her some comfort amid the devastation.

Maine marriage equality backers cite support for law

This just in from the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, Maine:

A coalition fighting a move to repeal the state's gay-marriage law says it has collected more than 60,000 pledge cards of support from Maine residents.

Maine Freedom to Marry organizers announced at a noon rally Thursday in Portland that more than 400 volunteers had collected the cards from across the state. The announcement came a day before opponents are scheduled to deliver signatures to Augusta to put the issue of gay marriage on the November ballot.

The rally was the latest development in a campaign that is expected to be highly emotional and very expensive. By mid-July, the coalition of opponents of gay marriage, the Stand for Maine Marriage political action committee, had raised more than $343,000, while those fighting the repeal had taken in $138,640 in contributions.

(Hat tip: Steve Gorman)

July 30, 2009

Blade: doubts raised on gay Iraqi allegations

Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff posted an update today on the story it published Wednesday on charges by two gay Iraqi refugees at a fundraiser last Friday that American soldiers had committed atrocities against gay Iraqis. Naff refutes claims that the Blade violated an "off the record" agreement, and raises doubts based on the refugees' failure to back up their incendiary claims:

Hussam [one of the refugees] showed graphic photographs during the presentation, which he said he took while in Iraq. They included disturbing images of beheaded corpses. But one image stood out: It purportedly showed a small group of gay Iraqi men naked, chained together and kneeling before a U.S. tank as American soldiers stood guard.

Hussam claimed that he possessed an image of those same men dead on the ground after being executed by the U.S. service members in the photo. He did not show that image to the audience and he declined [Blade reporter Chris] Johnson’s entreaties to share the images with us. We have tried multiple times since the event to reach Hussam and to obtain copies of his photos, but he is not returning phone calls....

There appear to be two possible explanations for what happened last week. First, the images are authentic and U.S. service members have targeted Iraqi gays for execution. This would constitute a violation of international law and necessitate a full military investigation with the harshest of penalties for anyone convicted of involvement. Or second, that the images are a hoax, used to manipulate an audience of financial donors. If the images are fakes or were in any way misrepresented, then the presenters and organizers are spreading anti-American propaganda and should be held accountable.

The more you read, the more this has hoax written all over it. If the organizers of the event, the National LGBT Bar Association, persist in touting these grave charges while refusing to substantiate them and attacking the Blade for its legitimate inquiries — well, someone should ask to examine their bar licenses. [Modified from previous rant.]

Insuring your spouse or partner in D,C.

Chris Edelson at HRC Backstory points out that, due to new laws that have taken effect granting equal benefits to same-sex couples in D.C., you may have a limited time to act if you want to add your spouse or partner to your employer-based insurance this year:

As you have probably heard, Washington, D.C. has a new law providing for recognition of marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into outside the District. D.C. also recently enacted a law recognizing, as domestic partnerships in the District, relationships legally entered into outside D.C. that are “substantially similar” to domestic partnerships in D.C.—for instance, civil unions in New Jersey, or domestic partnerships in Oregon.

These new laws give same-sex couples married or partnered outside the District immediate access to hundreds of rights and responsibilities in D.C. For one thing, if you’re married or partnered outside D.C., you may be able to cover your spouse or partner through insurance plans offered by your employer. The one catch is that you have to act very quickly if you want to get coverage for your spouse or partner this year. Depending on the language of your employer’s plan, it is likely that you have just 30 days from the date the laws went into effect to take action. If you don’t act during that period, you won’t be able to add coverage for your spouse or partner until the next “open enrollment” period. The marriage recognition law went into effect July 6, 2009. The partnership recognition law went into effect July 20, 2009.

D.C. man arrested for saying he hates police

S-PEPIN-large The Huffington Post reports that 33-year-old Pepin Tuma was arrested on Saturday night after chanting "I hate police" while walking along U Street NW with some friends after a discussion of the Henry Louis Gates arrest:

One officer reacted strongly to Tuma's song. "Hey! Hey! Who do you think you're talking to?" Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing....

Tuma said he responded, "It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It's not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street."

According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn't talk to police like that....

Within minutes, the officer had cuffed Tuma. The charge: disorderly conduct — just like Gates....

D.C.'s disorderly conduct statute bars citizens from breaching the peace by doing anything "in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others" or by shouting or making noise "either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons."

The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has said that the city's disorderly conduct law is "confusing, overbroad, frequently used by police to harass disfavored individuals" and that it "violates constitutional rights of free speech, assembly and petition."

Granted, it is not smart to do what Mr. Tuma did. But that does not justify his arrest. The District's disorderly conduct statute is so broad that it could be used to arrest almost anyone at any time. And the incident reveals a disturbing attitude that wearing a badge confers a license to abuse people. This is not why we hire police. I hope that Tuma presses his complaint. I know some fine officers in the Metropolitan Police Department, and they and the people they serve will be better off if abusive officers are held accountable for their behavior.

Boston cop suspended for racist email

Justin Barrett, 36, has been suspended from his posts in the Boston police and the Massachusetts National Guard after a racist email he wrote to a reporter about Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates was obtained by Boston's Fox25 News. His emailed comments included this:

Your defense of Gates while he is on the phone while being confronted [INDEED] with a police officer is assuming he has rights when considered a suspect. He is a suspect and always will be a suspect. His first priority of concern should be to get off the phone and comply with police, for if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.

The Boston Globe reports that Barrett denies any racist intent, claiming he made "a poor choice of words." Please. If you are trying to insult people in a way that suggests they are mentally deficient, it might be more effective if you didn't say something stupid and lame yourself. Back in 2001 after G.W. Bush was sworn in, some on the left started referring to him as "the retarded monkey who runs America." To which Andrew Sullivan tartly replied, "How must it feel to be defeated by a retarded monkey?" As President Obama said last year to those who mocked him for correctly stating that fully inflating their tires would conserve gas, "These people are proud of being ignorant."

Now we have a police officer who thinks it's legitimate to pepper-spray someone merely because he doesn't like the man's attitude, and brazenly claims that the phrase "banana-eating jungle monkey" is not racist. A racist by any other name is just as foul.

It doesn't take much to bring out some people's hatred. We may not be able to change such attitudes, but we do not have to allow them to remain in positions of public trust involving a gun and a badge, not to mention a spray container of OC.

Update: I should also note Officer Barrett's suggestion that a suspect has no rights. Elsewhere in his email he called the reporter "an infidel." The image of America that his statements paint bears little resemblance to the America I love and am working to improve. Barrett will be championed by the radical right, the same people who regarded any criticism of Bush and Cheney as treasonous. Let this be a reminder that the Know Nothings have not given up or gone away. And don't forget to keep your voter registration current.

Summersgill is Metro Weekly cover story

Mw_cover We are proud to note that the cover story in this week's issue of Metro Weekly is Will O'Bryan's interview with former GLAA president Bob Summersgill, architect of the legislative strategy for winning equality for same-sex couples in the District. Bob's self-deprecation and pragmatism can be seen here:

There's nothing that I do in the political world that takes a great intellect. It takes perseverance. It takes willingness to accept compromise. It's about finding a problem with a solution that the politician can actually do. You can ask for the moon, but if they can't actually deliver, you're just wasting your breath and their time.

I'm not going to say I'm not smart, because I think I am, but I don't think I've used the limits of my intellect to get legislation passed. It's not rocket science. I've studied some rocket science, and it's tough; this isn't it. [Laughs.]

Ninety percent of activism is showing up and staying with it. You're not going to get everything today. If you keep going, you will get everything. But you have to have a long-term plan. You have to look for all the little pieces that you can fix on the way to the big piece.

Continue reading "Summersgill is Metro Weekly cover story" »

July 29, 2009

Blade: U.S. military accused of atrocities against Iraqi gays

Saddamstatue-web The Washington Blade is reporting allegations that are shocking if true:

A fundraising event to benefit an LGBT community center in Lebanon last week took a surprise turn when stunned audience members were shown graphic photographs of beheaded corpses and images purportedly depicting U.S. soldiers preparing to execute gay Iraqis.

Two gay Iraqi refugees, who declined to use their real names, delivered a presentation at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters July 24 in which they detailed alleged abuses of fellow gay Iraqis while calling on their audience to donate funds to Helem, a Lebanon-based center that works to address the plight of LGBT people in the Middle East.

One of the Iraqis, who goes by the name “Hussam,” showed the audience of about 80 people gruesome images, including shots allegedly of a beheaded man who was gay and another of the victim’s twin brother grieving over the severed head.

These are grave charges that need further investigation.

Colbert: birthers and a bris

Stephen Colbert has a great deal of fun with the anti-Obama "birther" movement in this clip. In the process, he takes time to perform a circumcision.

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Womb Raiders - The Fight for the Truth Behind Obama's Birth
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Jasmyne Cannick blames the SCLC controversy on white people

If you haven't encountered the racially divisive nuttiness of black lesbian blogger Jasmyne Cannick, why not treat yourself now?

For a previous example of Cannick's hatefulness, see my column of March 13, 2008.

Goodbye, birther smear. Hello, euthanasia scare.

Eric Kleefeld at TPM discusses the latest development in the anti-Obama "birther" craze — it has been repudiated by RNC Chairman Michael Steele as well as by right-wing media stars Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter, in addition to the fact that not one House Republican voted against the resolution Monday night marking the 50th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood, which included a reference to the state as President Obama's birthplace.

Could this mean that the GOP is starting to regain its sanity? Not if you consider the growing popularity on the right of a bogus charge the the House health care reform bill includes a provision that would push the elderly into ending their lives prematurely. Carrie Budoff Brown at Politico reports that this falsehood is being peddled by the likes of Sean Hannity, John Boehner, and Fred Thompson:

The focus of their ire is a provision tucked deep inside the House bill that would provide Medicare coverage for an end-of-life consultation once every five years. If a person falls ill with a life-threatening disease, more frequent sessions would be allowed....

On Thompson’s radio show, as well as in a New York Post op-ed and other interviews during the past week, McCaughey has said the provision requires senior citizens to submit to end-of-life consultations. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity touted the New York Post article on their shows. “Congress would make it mandatory, absolutely require, that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner,” McCaughey said to Thompson....

But proponents of the end-of-life care measure say it does nothing close to what McCaughey, Thompson, Boehner and others assert.

The provision would require Medicare to cover advanced care consultations for the first time, but it does not mandate individuals to take advantage of the benefit, proponents say. The consultations would take place between the patient and a doctor or nurse practitioner, not a government bureaucrat. And there would be no requirement for the individual to sign a directive or living will at the end of the discussion.

In other words, more desperate, over-the-top, outrageously false nuttiness from the right wing to derail the health care debate. Isn't that a relief? For a moment I thought the Republicans were coming to their senses.

Keeping the community center's doors open

Door-300x211 David Mariner, Executive Director of The DC Center, looks back at D.C.'s first gay community center, which was opened by what was then GAA in 1972 and lasted only 18 months:

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if this center had survived its nascent period and had the chance to grow. Would we have a permanent home for our community? How would the center have grown over the years? Would we be like community centers in other cities?

DC ranks in the top five metropolitan areas in terms of same-sex couples according to census data, along with Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Yet, for some reason, we are the only one of these cities that doesn’t have a permanent home for our LGBT center. Each of these cities has LGBT centers with multi-million dollar buildings and multi-million dollar annual budgets ranging from over two million to well over forty million. Our entire operating budget this year, in contrast, is less than 10% of the lowest of these budgets.

We have a long way to go. But the proposed changes to the 2010 District budget, which would cut all city support for The DC Center by 60%, are moving us backward, not forward.

The occasion for Mariner's article is a proposed sixty percent cut in previously approved District funding for the current DC Center's building fund and Crystal Meth Working Group due to a looming D.C. budget deficit.

Bob Summersgill, a former GLAA president and a student of gay history, comments:

The community center in 1972 almost bankrupted GAA. It was reduced to just 3 members, and almost closed down for good. GAA ran through 1972 with 4 different Presidents and a financial mis-management scandal.

Thanks to Cade Ware, Craig Howell, and Bob Carpenter GAA was saved. The group went on to be the longest continually active GLBT rights organization in the country, the most sucessful in terms of the quantity and range of legislation passed.

That "continually active" part is no small achievement. Somehow we've kept going through all the ups and downs over the years. Keeping expenses down has helped. Another fact that helped is the presence of the federal government, which provided many GAA/GLAA folk with steady employment so that they could afford their activism and could do independent advocacy because they didn't need a job from a politician.

In any case, the current DC Center, which is independent of GLAA, needs your help. They are online at http://www.thedccenter.org/.

Update: Bob Summersgill points out that the federal Hatch Act, which limits the partisan activities (such as fundraising) by federal employees, was another factor that encouraged non-partisan advocacy by GLAA folk over the years. I confess I have had many occasions over the years to be grateful for the Hatch Act's restrictions.

One injured in bomb blast at Outgames in Copenhagen

DeanPostRace Jim Buzinski at Outsports.com reports that an American athlete was injured by one of three bombs tossed during the World Outgames in Copenhagen. Dean Koga, a member of the Seattle Frontrunners, received an injury to his right hand from shrapnel from the second bomb, but that did not prevent him from winning a gold medal the following day in his age group in the men's 200 meters.

There was criticism of the slow police response, including this:

"It was annoying that it happened a second time," said one athlete, a retired New York City police officer, who did not want to be identified as being critical of other police officers. While praising the response of the onsite Outgames volunteers, he said that Copenhagen police failed to adequately secure the area after first arriving.

I suppose we should be grateful that the Blue Wall of Silence has at least given way in this case to the Blue Wall of Anonymity.

(Photo by Jim Buzinski, Outsports.com)

Palm Center: gays giving White House a pass on DADT

The Palm Center at the University of California has published a report on opposition by gay activists and their allies to an executive order suspending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The report is titled, “A Self-Inflicted Wound: How and Why Gays Give the White House a Free Pass on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” written by Palm Center director Aaron Belkin.

Belkin said, "Some members of our community have been circulating misleading arguments which ended up as talking points for the President of the United States. It is not our job to provide Washington with reasons to continue to discriminate.”

The DADT Working Group, a collaboration of the Palm Center and the Williams Institute, issued a statement on Monday in response to inaccurate statements on DADT by President Obama, Rep. Patrick Murphy, Defense Secretary Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen:

Congress has authorized the President, via statute, to suspend any law regarding military separations during national security emergencies. Hence, an executive order would not be a matter of the President choosing to "not enforce a law" but an appropriate exercise of executive authority granted directly by Congressional statute....

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” as codified by Congress, grants significant authority to the Secretary of Defense to devise and implement the procedures under which investigations, separation proceedings, and other personnel actions will be carried out. In fact, Secretary Gates has said he is looking for ways to relax enforcement of the law without approval from Congress.

No research shows that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly would impact heterosexual military families.

The efforts by gay rights activists to block a presidential order are outrageous. The President can and should issue a stop-loss order to end the anti-gay discharges now. We are told that this would let Congress off the hook and that an executive order could be overturned by Obama's successor. They say this as if there is no other side to the issue. But a stop-loss order would allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, and it would be extremely difficult to chase that genie back in the bottle after it has been the daily reality in the military services for years. Furthermore, that daily reality would do much to dispel the myths about openly gay servicemembers harming good order and discipline, which has not been the experience of our allies such as Great Britain, Canada, and Israel who do not discriminate against gays in their military.

Of course DADT should be repealed by Congress. But a presidential stop-loss order, followed by years of open and honorable service by the many dedicated gay men and women who are already working in the military, would create a new reality to which Congress would be pressed to respond. In their concern that Congress not be left off the hook, some misguided activists are letting the President off the hook. Our military readiness is harmed, and fine careers are gratuitously destroyed, every day that DADT is allowed to continue. The President has the power to issue a stop-loss order right now, and we should raise hell against those in our movement who provide cover for his reluctance to use that power to carry out his campaign promise and end this damnable policy.

July 28, 2009

Shatner interprets Palin speech as poetry

Sarah Palin's farewell speech was not a rambling mess, it was poetry. William Shatner gave a dramatic interpretation on The Tonight Show.

If you think this is Shatner's first foray into the delivery of other people's lyrics, you must check out his 1978 performance of Elton John's "Rocket Man."

Grace and truth, Exodus version

Box Turtle Bulletin reports on the latest demonstration of "grace and truth" from the loving folks at Exodus International. In this case, the focus is on the preachings of a church that is a member of the Exodus Church Network. They include statements like, "Pedophilia has even been called central to the gay lifestyle," and "The homosexual agenda is being pushed upon this nation, to the point where it may become illegal for pastors to preach against homosexuality from the pulpit, that is where even such preaching is deemed a crime," and "It is clear among statistics that homosexual relationships are mainly about sex." BTB responds:

This is presented, of course, as justification for McPherson’s and The Rock Church’s political efforts to deny rights to gay and lesbian Californians. And, of course, as an example of The Rock’s “grace and truth.”

Have we heard all of this before? Yes, we have. And we have debunked it time and time again.

These are lies. They are not misstatements, they are not exagerations, they are not misunderstandings. They are deliberate and intentional demonizations of gay men and women with the express intent of horrifying the reader and firing them up to attack the civil rights and liberties of the segment of the population that McPherson despises.

Oh but wait, it gets better:

"Recently in Pennsylvania, a woman was arrested and sentenced for 47 years in prison because she had the following bumper sticker: God loves homosexuals, but homosexuality is a sin. This is only one of the many current and shocking examples of Christian prosecution presented in today’s message."

WFT?? This is a new one even for me. And it’s a new one for google as well. This appears to be a flat out fabrication, apparantly made up by Miles McPherson himself to scare his flock through ignorance and instill hatred and fear of gay people, precisely what Chambers claims to oppose.

The Exodus folks are for Truth with a capital T, not for garden variety truthfulness. Capital-T Truth is not designed for understanding but for beating other people over the head.

O'Reilly slams birthers, defends Dobbs's right to "bloviate"

Bill O'Reilly, in a discussion with Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen, points out that his own program last year debunked the bogus claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. But while he criticizes Lou Dobbs of CNN for continuing to beat the story, O'Reilly criticizes SPLC's call for CNN to fire Dobbs.

I'm not sure O'Reilly has a point. As Cohen points out, SPLC is not calling for the government to shut Dobbs down, they are asking the people in charge of CNN to exercise some judgment and remove a reckless, conspiracy-mongering demagogue from the air. It appears unlikely that the folks at CNN will heed the call, but SPLC makes a good case.

Obama, take a page from Truman

Dadtchoi_onpage Lawrence J. Korb and Laura Conley at the Center for American Progress urge President Obama to take the lead in ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by following the example of Harry Truman, who integrated the U.S. military in 1948 over objections from military brass, members of Congress and the public:

Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft (R-OH) called Truman’s executive order a cheap political ploy. Some of Obama’s opponents in Congress will likely employ similar arguments against DADT, and the president must be prepared to display the same strong leadership Truman exhibited.

President Truman also faced significant opposition from the country. Only 13 percent of Americans supported “having negro and white troops throughout the U.S. armed services live and work together” when he issued his executive order to end segregation in the armed forces. Obama’s potential support is much greater. A 2009 Washington Post-ABC News poll from July 2008 showed that 75 percent of Americans now believe that gay people should be allowed to serve openly.

The U.S. military has only become more unified and more capable during the more than six decades since Truman took the first steps to end segregation in our armed forces. Our closest allies around the world, including Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom allow gay men and women to serve openly and have transitioned their forces without incident. Obama will create a stronger and more cohesive force if he follows Truman’s example and takes the lead despite the opposition from some members of Congress and the military, and some portion of the American people, and overturns this long-outdated and discriminatory policy.

Yep. And the President's desire to "end it the right way" (meaning wait for congressional action) is not sufficient reason for him to refuse to issue a stop-loss order to end the forcible discharge of gay and lesbian servicemembers. Dan Choi, pictured above, is one of many fine and dedicated servicemembers we have met who have been robbed of their careers and whose services the nation has lost for no good reason. The arguments in support of DADT are entirely fabricated, and a large majority of Americans want the discrimination to end. It is time for presidential leadership and action.

July 27, 2009

Fenty proposes $570,000 in cuts to LGBT groups

Washington Blade reporter Lou Chibbaro reports on funding cuts to LGBT organizations proposed by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty as part of an effort to close a projected deficit of $600 million for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009 and Fiscal Year 2010:

The D.C. LGBT Community Center, Mautner Project for lesbian health, Transgender Health Empowerment, and Crystal Meth Working Group are among several dozen non-profit organizations slated to see reduced city funding as part of an effort by Fenty and the City Council to close a projected $453 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year and a projected $150,000 shortfall in 2010....

But representatives of some of the projects and programs that are part of the D.C. Center and an official with Transgender Health Empowerment, which provides social services to members of the transgender community, urged the City Council to restore the funds during a day-long Council hearing July 24....

The proposed cuts for LGBT related grants include:

  • D.C. LGBT Center: Funds to be used for the purchase of a center building would be reduced from $500,000 to $200,000;

  • Crystal Meth Working Group, a project of the LGBT Center that seeks to curtail use of this addictive drug in the LGBT community: A grant of $150,000 would be reduced to $60,000;

  • Transgender Health Empowerment: A grant of $150,000 would be reduced to $60,000;

  • and Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization: Separate grants of $150,000 and $50,000 would be reduced to $60,000 and $20,000 respectively.

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray held a hearing on the proposed cuts on Friday, July 24, at which more than 100 witnesses testified on the impact the cuts would have on their organizations and programs. GLAA was asked to testify in support of restoring funding to the DC Center, Transgender Health Empowerment, and the Office of Police Complaints, and agreed to do so. GLAA Secretary Miguel Tuason testified for GLAA. But short of finding new sources of revenue, such as by increasing the tax rate for the wealthiest Washingtonians from 8.5 percent to 8.9 percent, the projected budget deficit will make it very difficult for the Council to avoid the cuts.

LGBT-inclusive call for immigration reform

HRC Backstory reports on an LGBT-inclusive speech on immigration reform by Father Richard Estrada of Los Angeles, part of HRC’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality. Here's the video.

How about those Kiss Cams?

City Paper's Sexist blog has an item about the use of "kiss cams" to make gay jokes at sporting events:

One Philadelphia Phillies fan has seen the same-sex KissCam, and she doesn’t like it: “the Phillies ‘kiss cam,’ after showing various (straight) couples smooching, zoomed in on two men and the crowd erupted into laughter,” she writes. And the Washington Blade noted the practice in a 2004 story on the Washington Capitols‘ Capitals’ KissCam: “A fairly routine joke now is to find two men wearing jerseys of the opposing team who are sitting next to each other, and encourage them to kiss.”

No, this isn’t about protecting The Children from learning that gay people kiss, or protecting gay couples from an arena of laughs. If the KissCam goes gay, the worry isn’t that homophobic sports fans will make gay jokes about the couple kissing across the arena. The real worry is that they will no longer be able to make gay jokes about the straight guys being targeted on the KissCam operators. If same-sex couples are featured like normal humans on the KissCam, where will they find the homophobic punchline? If two men can kiss on camera, how will we make fun of the two men asked to kiss on camera?

Let's just remember that in some places, people laughing at two men kissing represents progress.

July 26, 2009

WaPo on Walter Cronkite's Gay Rights Past

EdwardAlwood While the GLAAForum has previously noted (PGN publisher Segal recalls friendship with Cronkite) the 1973 zap of The CBS Evening News and how this resulted in Walter Cronkite insisting on a more balanced coverage of gay rights issues.  More coverage of this incident is provided by Edward Alwood, author of "Straight News: Gays, Lesbians, and the News Media", in the Washington Post (How Do You Turn Walter Cronkite Into a Friend of Gay Rights? Zap Him).  Alwood writes about how when Walter Cronkite came to testify at the on trespassing charges he asked why Mark Segal had disrupted the broadcast.

"You're news censors," Segal responded. The anchorman was appalled. "If I can prove it," Segal then asked, "would you do something to change it?" He cited three examples, including a CBS report on the second rejection of a gay rights bill by the New York City Council. "Yes, I believe I wrote that story myself," Cronkite said.

"Well, why haven't you reported on the 23 other cities that have passed gay rights bills?" Segal asked. "Why do you cover 5,000 women walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City when they proclaim International Women's Year on the network news, and you do not cover 50,000 gays and lesbians walking down that same avenue proclaiming Gay Pride Day? That's censorship." Genuinely moved, Cronkite shook Segal's hand and thanked him.

These questions are still valid today.  Sadly few journalists like Walter Cronkite are around.

Marriage Referendum in the Balance?

Registered In May of this year Washington State enacted "everything-but-marriage" Domestic Partnership legislation which grants all of the benefits of marriage except the use of the name married.  The response to this was an effort to repeal the law called Referendum 71.  Saturday, July 25 was the closing day to submit petitions and opponents of the measure filed an estimated 138,000 signatures.  While just 120,577 valid signatures are required to put the measure on the ballot, this is far below the recommended 150,000 signatures, since usually around 25% are disqualified due to duplicate signatures, wrong addresses, lack of voter registrations, etc.  The state will begin authenticating signatures in the middle of the coming week.  If there are not enough valid signatures on the petition then the measure will go into effect immediately while if it qualifies for a November 2009 ballot vote it will remain on hold until after the election.

The signature collection has been quite controversial.  It seems that opponents of equal rights for gay people are quite adept at false witness everywhere.

Gay family at a border crossing

Alan_Will_and_Sam My friends Alan and Will spent the past ten days vacationing in the Dominican Republic with their 6-year-old son, Sam. Being a same-sex couple with a child, they were a bit nervous about what to expect from U.S. Customs officials. Will gave me permission to quote from his travel diary:

We checked out and made our way to the Punta Cana airport. It was about 90oF with about 60 percent humidity and there was no air conditioning, so by the time we got on the plane we were all three soaked to the skin. The flight was nice, quick and uneventful. When you arrive into the States you have to fill out a customs form (one per family). Alan and I had always shied away from doing this for fear that some immigration jerk would say something mean, like "you're not a family," which let's face it wouldn't surprise anyone and happened to us once several years ago, because there is a lot of ego and very little sensitivity with a lot of these guys/women. Our main concern had always been that we didn't want some idiot hurting our son's feelings, so Alan would always write one up for him and Sam and I would do one for myself. Well, this time we decided, "HELL NO", we would fill out one for our FAMILY and if they gave us a problem we would deal with it. That luckily did not happen. We got a very sweet man, who pretty much said that things need to change around here for families like ours. He was wonderful!!

Continue reading "Gay family at a border crossing" »

Sanctuary

Rainey_cheeks Darryl Fears at The Washington Post writes today about our friend, Bishop Rainey Cheeks, and the message of affirmation and responsibility his Inner Light Ministries offers his black gay congregation:

Inner Light Ministries in the District's H Street corridor might seem like a traditional black church, with fiery sermons, electric gospel music, a soulful choir and a congregation that sways and claps in rhythm. But it is hardly that.

For 16 years, it has served as a sanctuary for a small community of black gays and lesbians who say they feel shunned from all directions -- by black men and women who give them cutting looks of disapproval, by mainstream black ministers who condemn homosexuality, and by white gays who make them feel unwelcome in subtle ways, such as switching from hip-hop to country music in a club when too many black men hit the dance floor.

At Inner Light, members say they can be themselves. In the pews on a recent Sunday, a woman adoringly placed an arm around the shoulders of her girlfriend. A man with a linebacker's strong build sat near the front wearing mascara. And condoms sat in a basket near the door in case any worshipers wanted to grab some on their way out.

Safe sex is part of the message Cheeks preaches. Two-thirds of his 100 or so parishioners are gay and lesbian, a congregation that includes the young and the old; the healthy and the sick; those who are open about their sexual orientation and those who are more guarded.

They come to the church to pray for forgiveness and seek redemption. But many also come to share their experience of being black and gay, living and loving in a city where HIV and AIDS lurk in epidemic proportions in nearly every community.

The difficulty of openly confronting HIV is well described in the piece, including the resistance by many young people to taking the disease seriously. A photo gallery accompanying the article states, "Washington was once a mecca of culture and community for gay blacks, but AIDS in the 1980s devastated their ranks, leaving them with few leaders. Youths in community today are scared of the disease, and many lack family support." One looks hopefully toward these young people for a much-needed new generation of activist leadership. When we lack understanding and support from our birth families, we create our own families.

(Photo by Todd Franson, Metro Weekly)

July 25, 2009

On an ordinary Sunday

After a disharmonious political week, it was good to stumble across this gorgeous performance of one of Stephen Sondheim's finest compositions. It is hard to believe that it's been a quarter century since Sunday In the Park with George debuted on Broadway. After seeing the work-in-progress, Sondheim's old friend Leonard Bernstein called it "brilliant, deeply conceived, canny, magisterial and by far the most personal statement I've heard from you thus far. Bravo." The innovative, pointillistic musical about painter Georges Seurat won Sondheim and collaborator James Lapine the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This choral finale about the creation of a work of art — "Order. Design. Balance. Composition. Harmony" — is surprisingly moving.

July 24, 2009

"I'll speak with your mama outside."

Gates The Smoking Gun blog focuses on a line from the police report on the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates at his Cambridge home by Sergeant James Crowley. When Crowley asked Gates to speak with him outside, Gates reportedly replied, "I'll speak with your mama outside." As my ex-boyfriend Robert (who, like Gates, is a successful black professional) said, "He was playing the dozens!" I laughed along with Robert at this. I added, "Well that explains it. My maternal ancestry is Irish, and you just don't talk about an Irishman's mama."

Playing the dozens, however, does not strike me as a valid basis for arresting someone in his own home. Crowley claims that Gates left him no choice but to arrest him. Why? Because Crowley could not back down. It was not the first time when someone refusing to show deference to a police officer was arrested on a bogus charge, not because the officer thought for a moment that it would stick, but simply to humiliate the person and teach him a lesson. Robert said, "He was arrested for being an uppity Negro."

As someone who has lectured on racial profiling, Sgt. Crowley surely knows the history that causes so many African Americans to interpret the incident this way. And he should stop lending himself to those who want to exploit the incident for partisan gain. On a greater scale, President Bush used the war in Iraq to divide the country for partisan gain; we have had quite enough of that.

Update: Now the President talks about inviting Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer. We'll see. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh rants angrily about Barack Obama being an angry black man. Um, listen to both men and tell me which of them seems more angry to you. All Rush does is fire up his base, not persuade anyone. If those over-the-top lies were effective, someone else would reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue today.

HRC: Souder Needle Exchange Amendment FAILS

The Human Rights Campaign reports that "an amendment to reinstate the federal ban on funding syringe exchange programs (SEPs) was considered on the House floor this afternoon. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 211-218."

This is very good news for HIV prevention efforts. Studies have shown that SEPs decrease HIV transmission without increasing substance abuse. They simply help clean the needle supply, while also providing an opportunity to expose addicts to counseling and addiction recovery messages. That the forces of reason appear at long last to have the votes to enact responsible public health policy, at least to this extent, is most encouraging.

Update: NYT reports here.

SPLC to CNN: Remove Dobbs

The Southern Poverty Law Center has sent a letter to CNN President Jon Klein asking him to remove Lou Dobbs from the cable network, after Dobbs on Tuesday fanned the flames of the nutcase "birther" conspiracy theory which claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is not legally President.

Dobbs's continued presence on CNN makes it clear that those in charge of the network are not concerned with honor, decency, or anything resembling journalistic standards, to the extent that those things might get in the way of ratings and profits. I would have provided a photo of Dobbs with this entry, but to be honest I cannot stand the sight of the man, with his perpetual self-satisfied smirk and his constant, bottom-feeding nativist demagoguery. He certainly ought to be fired, but I will be surprised if the folks in charge at CNN care.

NBJC alert: Tell SCLC To Cease Actions Against LGBT-Affirming Reverend

Nbjc This just in from our friends at the National Black Justice Coalition:

The Rev. Eric Lee is the Los Angeles chapter president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights group founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He has become an outspoken advocate for Marriage Equality, and was particularly visible during protests against California's Prop 8. SCLC is now seeking a hearing, demanding that Rev. Lee explain his positions, and NBJC believes he is in imminent danger of being fired for his beliefs and work supporting Marriage Equality.

NBJC feels strongly that Rev. Lee should be praised for his support of LGBT rights - but instead, it would seem that he is in danger of discipline that may include losing his job.

Take a moment to send the SCLC a message in support of Rev. Lee here: http://ga4.org/campaign/sclc_July09

The SCLC should not create an employment environment that creates discrimination based on one?s personal values and beliefs. The loss of income to Rev. Lee and his family, particularly in these hard economic times, reflects the risk that LGBT people and our straight allies face in standing up for equal rights for all. Rev. Lee opposes discrimination where he sees it, noting ?any time you deny a group of people the same rights that other groups have, that is clear violation of civil rights.?

We ask that you send SCLC president Dr. Byron Clay a letter in support of Rev. Lee, and calling on this organization to support LGBT rights as part of their Civil Rights heritage.

The Action Alert is available here:
http://ga4.org/campaign/sclc_July09

You can also see a story about this in the LA Times here.

We hope you will take action, and ask others to take action themselves.

thank you,
NBJC

Update: There appears to be a glitch in NBJC's webform. We have alerted NBJC, but in the meantime you can email your concerns directly to Interim SCLC President Byron Clay at [email protected]. The proper salutation is "Dear Dr. Clay". And do send a courtesy copy to NBJC at [email protected].

Update 2: Michael Cobb of NBJC informs me that the webform has been fixed, and I've just verified it. Please do join the effort to persuade SCLC to end their actions against Rev. Lee and instead work with NBJC and others to win equality for all.

Author E. Lynn Harris dies at 54

Harris Southern Voice reports that bestselling black gay novelist E. Lynn Harris died today at age 54 during a west coast book tour.

Harris's novels include Just As I Am, And This Too Shall Pass, If This World Were Mine (winner of the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence), I Say a Little Prayer, and Basketball Jones (published this year). He was known for his books' portrayals of closeted gay male characters.

Harris also wrote a memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, published in 2004.

Gates case all too familiar to black strivers

The Boston Globe today talks to successful African Americans who find the recent experience of Prof. Henry Louis Gates all too familiar:

A financial adviser at a leading wealth-management firm, Dan Rivers often identifies himself proudly but simply: “I’m a Dartmouth guy.’’ But thinking about the times he was scrutinized by security coming in and out of corporate events, about the less-than-welcoming glances he has received at a venerable men’s clothier, Rivers said he is sometimes seen by others in an entirely different way: as a black guy.

Likewise, Colette A.M. Phillips, chief executive of a Boston marketing firm, recalled the fellow business traveler in the American Airlines Admirals Club at Logan International Airport who presumed she was the help and asked for coffee.

There are legions of others who can share similar stories, affluent, accomplished, and academically distinguished African-Americans in Greater Boston who have suffered indignities that they doubt would befall their similarly successful white peers. It demonstrates, they said, that racism cannot be escaped by climbing the ladder.

No, you have dyslexia

Deram

Draem, deram, whatever. Forgive me, but someone should work with grim and bold determination to improve the spelling on the protest placards of Corpus Christi. I mean that in a loving and nurturing way.

GLOV urges action over Hunter case indictment

GLOV co-chairs Chris Farris and Todd Metrokin sent the following alert to GLOV members late Thursday afternoon:

Dear Friends,

As you may have heard, the tragic case involving Tony Hunter's murder has come to a disappointing indictment, and now the defendant faces a MAXIMUM penalty of 180 days in jail and a fine ($1,000) for misdemeanor assault.

US. v Hannah involves a vicious attack on two gay men as they walked to BeBar near 8th and N streets. The defendant in that case alleges Tony groped him, and that he simply retaliated. Tony Hunter died 10 days later from injuries sustained from that "retaliation".

We have expressed outrage at the DOJ's inclination to accept the defendant's position that he was groped by the victim, despite logic and eyewitness accounts to the contrary. From the very beginning it appeared that the police and the prosecutors accepted the defendant's charge with no requirement of proof. Even after the second victim testified at the DC Council's Hate Crimes Hearing in front of the DOJ and MPD that:

  • he had not yet been interviewed by the DOJ, instead they believed the defendant's story and reduced the charge from voluntary manslaughter to involuntary manslaughter

  • the defendant's allegations were not true; rather, the attack was unprovoked

  • no one had spoken to him about any actions being taken with the attack on him, despite the police report that clearly indicated he was injured in the attack (by 4 people, not 1) as well

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

We believe this case has been seriously mishandled. At the end of this email you'll find our copy of a letter emailed to the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. We ask that you continue to follow up with the DOJ to try to get answers into their treatment of this case as well as let our city council members know how much you disagree with this indictment. And please share this with your friends and colleagues.

Sincerely,

Chris Farris & Todd Metrokin
Co-Chairs
GLOV - DC's GLBT Anti-violence Task Force

Continue reading "GLOV urges action over Hunter case indictment" »

Busy summer on marriage

Blade_logo The Blade today reports on efforts by D.C. activists to gear up for the fight for full marriage equality expected when D.C. Council member David Catania introduces a bill this fall:

From visiting Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings to offering training on how best to speak about marriage equality, local groups and activists are working hard this summer to set the stage for a bill D.C. City Council member David Catania (I-At Large) has pledged to introduce.

Jeffrey Richardson, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, said members of his organization were “just beginning to move to the next phase of outreach and education and campaigning.”

...The Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance ... recently launched the GLAA Forum blog — at www.glaaforum.org — “to foster timely reports to our members, allies and the broader public with updates and links on the latest developments,” Rosendall said.

He has also been making media appearances, and recently debated same-sex marriage opponent Bishop Harry Jackson on the local newscast of CBS station WUSA....

Michael Crawford, president of D.C. For Marriage, said that his group would launch a new campaign in the next few weeks to share the stories of couples that are married and have had their marriages recognized. He also said that D.C. for Marriage was planning a series of forums in all eight wards and would make more aggressive outreach efforts to media....

Each of the pro-marriage organizations are working together under the Campaign for All D.C. Families, which is coordinating the efforts of D.C. for Marriage, Stein Club, GLAA and other organizations.

This year has seen an unprecedented amount of cooperation and coordination across the LGBT community. Our success so far gives us reason to be optimistic that this is the year we'll get it done.

Invoke "gay panic," get off on a misdemeanor

Lou Chibbaro reports in today's Washington Blade on the outcry from gay activists over the indictment on a mere misdemeanor charge of the man who killed Tony Randolph Hunter last September:

Activists, led by Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence, have said they are dismayed that police and prosecutors appear to have given credence to [Robert Lee Hannah’s] claim that he was the victim of Hunter’s alleged sexual proposition.

GLOV co-chair Chris Farris said Hannah’s claim of a sexual advance marked yet another instance where someone who commits an anti-gay attack invoked the so-called gay panic defense.

“The notion that a gay man walking in a dangerous neighborhood on his way to a gay bar would walk up to a group of four men and grab one of them sexually is not only a homophobic notion but also completely contradicted by the other victim in this case,” Farris told the Blade in October....

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) also expressed disappointment at the development.

“I am deeply disturbed by this result,” he said. “Maybe there is something we don’t know. But if my knowledge of the facts is accurate, there has been a major miscarriage of justice in the grand jury action.”

I agree with Farris and Graham. It's hard to see any justice in a killer facing only 180 days in jail for a deadly assault. And D.C. has no control over the United States Attorney’s office, which said it was the grand jury's decision. But grand juries almost always defer to prosecutors. This is truly a miscarriage of justice.

July 23, 2009

Birthers: STFU alert

Jon Stewart does a good job on the crazy people who have convinced themselves against all evidence that President Obama is not an American. He also does a fine job of skewering Lou Dobbs of CNN for his reckless demagoguery.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
www.thedailyshow.com

Donna Payne reports from the NAACP convention

The HRC Back Story blog has a story by Donna Payne describing the first meeting of the NAACP's new LGBT Task Force at last week's 100th anniversary convention of the NAACP:

Alice Huffman ... spoke about what it took to get to this point. Her experience in fighting for marriage support gave way for her drive to make sure LGBT people were welcome in the NAACP. In one of her public speaking engagements on marriage equality, she was told that she was not a real member of the NAACP. She couldn’t believe the reactions she received – from hate mail all the way to questioning her sexuality. Her response was to move forward. She worked with the people that wanted to support equality and left the others on the sidelines. She also was a critical activist for us on the Prop 8 ballot initiative in California....

Julian Bond stated honestly that he knew the NAACP has not supported marriage. For his part he has been a strong ally in the marriage equality fight although he said he knew there are others on board that are wrong headed. He said simply “they are wrong.” He’s had to rebut basic misconceptions including being told by a board member that “if they didn’t want to be gay, they could change.” His reply: why would someone want to do that? If they are gay, they are gay. Many of us started laughing at his stories of what he has gone through but some of it hasn’t been funny. He has even been questioned by many on the board about whether he should remain chairman because of his views....

Rev. Amos Brown ... told everyone that he knew they faced resistance on the board around marriage and he knew exactly who – most were ministers. They all knew it would be a heated debate at the Board meeting. He said “the problem is not from the pews, but in the pulpit” drawing a lot of applause.

The NAACP board vote on the LGBT Task Force's mission statement had to be postponed due to logistical preparations for President Obama's visit. Stay tuned.

Obama weighs in on Gates arrest

In this clip from last night's news conference, President Obama answers a question from Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet about last week's arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates in his own home, and what it says about race relations in America. Although the President gets a few details wrong (Gates's front door was jammed; it wasn't that he had forgotten his keys), he gets it right with his statement, "There is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately," and talks about his own past work on racial profiling. He notes that his own presence in the White House is evidence of progress, but also gets a big laugh when he imagines himself being mistaken for an intruder. I don't know anyone who can navigate racial issues more deftly.