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158 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009

Answering WaPo op-ed: Racial pawns in the battle for same-sex marriage

Taylor Harris, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, has a commentary in the Nov. 28 Washington Post in which he suggests that marriage-equality advocates, including NAACP chairman Julian Bond, are seeking to use him as a “racial pawn.”

In response to Bond’s statement that “Black people, of all people, should not oppose equality,” Harris writes, “[W]hen he says ‘equality,’ he isn’t talking about the right to vote, the right to eat at a public restaurant, the right to attend an integrated school or the right to a fair trial. He is talking about the right to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.”

Harris’s implication is that gays should not be allowed to marry because they didn’t face the same discrimination as blacks. First, many gay people are black. Second, I thought the message of the civil rights movement was that Jefferson's phrase “all men are created equal” means that equal rights are the birthright of everyone. Harris, by contrast, seems to be saying that only people whose ancestors were victims of particularly brutal discrimination are entitled to civil rights. This notion that civil rights belong exclusively to African Americans makes a hash of what the leaders of the civil rights movement said they were fighting for.

Harris's comment about redefining marriage reminds me of Judge Leon Bazile’s famous statement in the Loving case, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” How is Harris’s disapproval of same-sex marriages any more enlightened than the views of Judge Bazile?

Continue reading "Answering WaPo op-ed: Racial pawns in the battle for same-sex marriage" »

November 27, 2009

D.C. police reviewing hate crime report; correction eyed

Chris Dyer, director of the D.C. Office of GLBT Affairs, has replied to an inquiry I sent him as to whether the Metropolitan Police Department will be correcting its report on bias-related crimes in the District to include as a separate category those based on gender identity or expression:

I've been told that MPD will be reviewing its data to identify those that are based on gender identity. They will be starting with this year's crimes, and working backwards. The goal was to see if they could do this back through the 2005 data.

This is a welcome development, however tardy. Last Friday, at D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson's hearing on hate crimes, I testified for GLAA, criticizing MPD's failure to track anti-trans hate crimes as required by D.C. law. On Monday, Bob Summersgill reinforced and expanded upon GLAA's testimony. Thanks to Chris Dyer for looking into the matter for us.

Tiger Woods injured in car crash near home

The world's greatest golfer, and a generous philanthropist through his eponymous foundation, was injured early this morning near his home in Windermere, Florida. The only detail I've seen reported so far is lacerations to his face. I hope the father of two is okay. He still needs five more major championships to beat his boyhood idol, all-time record holder Jack Nicklaus. And Tiger, I don't care if your face is all cut up. I'd still ask you to dance. (Not that I'd mess with a married man.)

NYT: Soul-Searching in Turkey After a Gay Man Is Killed

The New York Times reports:

For Ahmet Yildiz, a stocky and affable 26-year-old, the choice to live openly as a gay man proved deadly. Prosecutors say his own father hunted him down, traveling more than 600 miles from his hometown to shoot his son in an old neighborhood of Istanbul.

Mr. Yildiz was killed 16 months ago, the victim of what sociologists say is the first gay honor killing in Turkey to surface publicly. He was shot five times as he left his apartment to buy ice cream. A witness said dozens of neighbors watched the killing from their windows, but refused to come forward. His body remained unclaimed by his family, a grievous fate under Muslim custom.

His father, Yahya Yildiz, whose trial in absentia began in September, is on the run and believed to be hiding in northern Iraq....

Ummuhan Darama, a neighbor of Mr. Yildiz, was shot in the ankle during the attack and has filed criminal charges against his father. She said that the police had visited her in the hospital after the episode, urging her to drop the charges and to avoid becoming involved in what they called a “dirty crime.”

Ms. Darama, a religious Muslim who wears a gold satin head scarf, said she was the only one among her neighbors willing to testify.

“The police and local religious officials are trying to protect the killer because they think homosexuality is a sin,” she said. “But in Islam killing is an even bigger sin, and no one but Allah has the right to decide between life and death. Ahmet was a nice, gentle boy and he didn’t deserve to die.”

Ready for our medium-shot

Metro Weekly previews MITV's "Real World DC," which was shot on location in Dupont Circle last summer. GLAA's officers took part in a shoot involving cast member Callie, who was interning as a photographer at The Washington Blade. We probably ended up on the cutting room floor, but let us know if you catch a fleeting glimpse of us. I'd link you to the photo Callie took of us, which was included in the Blade's 40th anniversary photo gallery, but sadly the Blade website is offline. Below is the trailer.

Harvey Milk, still speaking to us

Michael Jones at change.org marks the 31st anniversary of Harvey Milk's assassination by asking what Milk would say to America today. His answer: "Time and time again, the strategy that works best for winning people over on LGBT rights issues is personal conversations."

Six years ago on this date, I wrote this:

1978 ... was a year before the first gay march on Washington, three years before my own chorus was born in DC thanks to the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus national tour, and three years before we were hit by a strange, deadly disease that was initially called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (or GRID), whose devastation forced our community to grow up. But in 1978, all of that lay in the future....

If you are in your twenties, such backward glances are way off in your future. When you are approaching 50, I'll be nearing Frank's age. The cycle of life goes on, and we build on foundations laid by those who came before. Death and birth go hand in hand, as illustrated by the young men who climbed up the stairs of San Francisco's City Hall 25 years ago and started to sing. That is something to give thanks for....

But it's especially appropriate on this anniversary to give thanks for our gay pioneers, not too far in the past, who had to build everything from scratch because until they came along the idea of public, open gay life was unthinkable. They broke through the barrier, and no bullets or constitutional amendments will ever be able to take that idea and unthink it.

Imhoff attacks DCVote's defense of District self-determination

Check out Ilir Zherka's letter in the November 25 issue of DCWatch.com. While DCVote is neutral on the issue of marriage equality, they of course strongly support self-determination for the District and oppose congressional interference in our city's affairs:

As an organization, we [DCVote] do not have a position on marriage equality. In fact, we have supporters on both sides on that question. We do, however, have a very strong position on who should decide the question of marriage equality: the District of Columbia. This is the same position we have had on needle exchange, medical marijuana, abortion funding, and other local issues in which Congress has intervened. To learn more about our work, visit our Web site or contact our Public Affairs Director, Eugene D. Kinlow, at ekinlow@dcvote.org, 462-6000 x13.

All of us are struggling to secure full democracy for DC. That means full voting representation in Congress and full local control over local issues.

We know that our opponents in the Congress will use every chance they get, including a DC law providing for marriage equality, to restrict the rights of DC residents. We promise to fight that congressional intrusion. We ask that DC residents on both sides of the marriage equality debate refrain from taking this fight to Capitol Hill. Let’s stand in solidarity in support of democracy for DC.

[To me, what DCVote is advocating is the polar opposite of full democracy. Unless and until Article I, Section 8, of the US constitution is amended, the United States Congress is the ultimate legislative body governing the District of Columbia. Any United States citizen has the right to appeal to and lobby Congress, and for citizens of the District of Columbia it is particularly important to preserve that right. DCVote is trying to deny DC citizens their right to appeal to Congress, and they are advocating limiting and restricting our access to our democratic options. This strikes me as a modern-day version of a states’ rights position, hostile to the federal government and denying its primacy. — Gary Imhoff]

DCWatch editor Gary Imhoff, in his editorial note, shows he is like most anti-gay activists we have encountered in this town: he only supports D.C. self-rule if it yields his desired result. If not, head to the Hill. That is a big no-no in D.C. politics — what our good friend and champion, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, calls "a second bite at the apple." What Imhoff misses in his self-righteous defense of citizens' rights is that D.C. has no voting representative in Congress. No member of Congress is accountable to D.C. voters. That is what the "Taxation Without Representation" complaint is about, which Imhoff may have seen on license plates around town. Yes, we are all too painfully aware of the power that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress over the District; that does not justify undemocratic congressional interference in the District's local affairs. Bonus points to the first reader who can provide a link to evidence that Imhoff in the past took the opposite position regarding congressional interference when it suited him.

Same-sex partner benefits expanding

The Washington Post reports:

With public attention focused largely on battles over whether gay couples should be able to marry, a less-noticed movement to grant health and other benefits to same-sex partners is gaining significant ground across the country in courtrooms, in legislatures and at the ballot box....

"The picture on benefits and domestic partnerships has moved quite dramatically for same-sex couples, but marriage is the issue that has gotten all the attention and energy, so some of that progress has been eclipsed," said Jane Schacter, a law professor at Stanford University. "Certainly, there has been movement on marriage as well, but nothing as much as domestic partnerships."

Much of the attention has focused on a stinging loss for gay rights advocates in Maine this month, when voters repealed a state law that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed. The vote made Maine the 31st state to block same-sex marriage through a public referendum.

Although advocates of marriage equality had drawn more money, political support and volunteers in Maine than in similar campaigns nationwide, the outcome affirmed what some polls already indicated. About 57 percent of Americans oppose granting same-sex marriages legal status, compared with 40 percent who support it, according to a May Gallup poll. But 67 percent of Americans say same-sex domestic partners should have access to health insurance and other benefits, the same poll found.

D.C.'s impending passage of a same-sex marriage bill is itself the fruit of a years-long strategy that began with domestic partnerships. Message to the all-or-nothing crowd: incrementalism works.

Puerto Ricans demand hate-crime prosecution in murder of gay teen

AP reports:

Thousands of people marched through Puerto Rico's capital Wednesday, celebrating the life of a gay teenager whose dismembered, burned body was found dumped along a road in a small mountain town.

The marchers, many of them carrying candles as a breezy dusk settled over San Juan, were also demanding that authorities invoke for the first time a law in the U.S. territory covering crimes based on sexual orientation.

"We're gay people, straight people, young people, old people. It is Puerto Rico that's walking tonight," Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said among the crowd gathered outside the island's Department of Justice....

Juan Martinez Matos, the 26-year-old suspect held in the case, met Lopez in an area known for prostitution, according to prosecutor Jose Bermudez Santos.

The prosecutor said Martinez confessed to stabbing Lopez, who was dressed as a woman, after discovering he was a man.

Manhattan Declaration unlikely to inspire young Christians

Author Jonathan Merritt doubts that the anti-gay (among other things) Manhattan Declaration, dominated by aging evangelicals, will have much appeal for the younger generation:

In addition to the disconnect regarding the exclusive importance of only a few issues, it is surprising that in the more than 140 original signatories a young person was scarce to be found. The list included more than its share of established white evangelicals--including James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Albert Mohler, and Tony Perkins--but included no notable evangelicals under 40. Perhaps this was mere oversight but it is one that will be both notable and damaging. Had this effort been a multigenerational one, it would have been inspiring and meaningful in a way that a declaration with the intent to "educate" is not, regardless of its sincerity.

"It's an interesting goal that says a lot about the fears of a graying generation of culture warriors, but the big question is how to instill the declaration's principles in the new generation," said Dan Gilgoff in his U.S. News God and Country blog on Friday. "Releasing a 4,700 word document at the National Press Club doesn't seem like the straightest path to young people's hearts."

Hockey manager defends gay son

Brian Burke, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and also of the 2010 U.S. Olympic hockey team, defends his openly gay son Brendan:

I had a million good reasons to love and admire Brendan. This news didn't alter any of them.

I would prefer Brendan hadn't decided to discuss this issue in this very public manner. There will be a great deal of reaction, and I fear a large portion will be negative. But this takes guts, and I admire Brendan greatly, and happily march arm in arm with him on this.

There are gay men in professional hockey. We would be fools to think otherwise. And it's sad that they feel the need to conceal this. I understand why they do so, however.

Can a gay man advance in professional hockey? He can if he works for the Toronto Maple Leafs! Or for Miami University Hockey. God bless Rico Blasi! And I am certain these two organizations are not alone here.

I wish this burden would fall on someone else's shoulders, not Brendan's. Pioneers are often misunderstood and mistrusted. But since he wishes to blaze this trail, I stand beside him with an axe! I simply could not be more proud of Brendan than I am, and I love him as much as I admire him.

Here's hoping Burke's attitude is catching.

November 26, 2009

Take that, Deum!

In honor of our battle with the Archbishop, here is the thrilling antiphonal opening of the Hector Berlioz Te Deum, with the organ's chords answering those of the orchestra, crowned by the voices of the chorus. Which will win? Why, justice will win. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 25, 2009

WaPo: Clergy's lost clout

The Washington Post examines the waning political influence of the city's socially conservative clergy:

Ministers who oppose same-sex marriage say they now feel belittled, ignored and isolated by a government that no longer views the clergy as a mighty political force. Activists, political leaders and some ministers who have come to tolerate, if not embrace, same-sex relationships argued that socially conservative ministers just chose to fight a battle they had lost years ago as the city changed around them....

Not all church leaders see the inevitable passage of the same-sex marriage bill as a commentary on their influence in the city. Indeed, more than 200 local religious leaders have come out in favor of same-sex marriage, reflecting the large network of progressive churches in the city.

And even among the more conservative, mostly Baptist, religious leaders, there is disagreement over how aggressively to wade into the issue.

While Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and other ministers who oppose same-sex marriage dominate the headlines, many of the city's well-known faith leaders have purposely avoided becoming publicly entangled in the debate.

That last point is the real story here — how many D.C. ministers have steered clear of this fight. It's not that they are all gay-affirming, not by any means. Nor is it that they are steering clear of a losing battle. It's that many refuse to let their pastoral agendas be hijacked for a divisive fight that helps no one, when their congregations face loss of jobs, homes and health care, and other problems including crime and underperforming schools. They don't have time for Bishop Jackson's nonsense.

The Blade staff, unvanquished

My column this week looks at the sudden death of the Washington Blade and its rebirth as DC Agenda:

The shutdown of the Washington Blade "is a sign from God," wrote the anti-gay Rev. Anthony Evans to reporter Lou Chibbaro on Nov. 18. But the true miracle may have come last Friday with the Blade’s resurrection as DC Agenda four days after Chibbaro and his colleagues were abruptly ordered to vacate their offices in the National Press Building.

Publisher Lynne Brown, Editor Kevin Naff, and the entire staff did it with sheer willpower, buoyed by an outpouring of community goodwill. It was a busy news week and they never missed a beat. On Friday, Chibbaro covered a D.C. Council hearing on hate crimes. Though I write for their rival, Metro Weekly, I tip my hat to them.

The Blade did not die because of the economic downturn, as some reported. It was pulled down by its corporate parent Window Media, which had used the Blade’s profits to support its unscrupulous, highly-leveraged business tactics in other cities, in what Bay Windows co-publishers Jeff Coakley and Sue O’Connell described as a "gay newspaper killing spree."

Though former Window Media president William Waybourn did much of the damage, I dealt more with his co-founder Chris Crain, who edited the Blade for five years, ending in 2006. Slings and arrows from the press are an occupational hazard for an activist, but Crain’s bullying was in a category all its own....

Read the whole thing here.

November 24, 2009

Summersgill rips police handling of hate crime reporting

Bob Summersgill has submitted testimony for the record of the November 20 D.C. Council hearing on hate crimes. He reinforces and expands upon GLAA's criticism of the failure of D.C. police to track anti-transgender hate crimes as required by D.C. law:

Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy L. Lanier said that transgender people are covered in "sexually-oriented crimes." If hate crimes based on gender identity and expression have been conflated with hate crimes based on sexual orientation, then Chief Lanier is mixing apples and oranges and calling them bananas.

Not only is gender identity and expression fundamentally different from sexual orientation, the Bias-Related Crimes Act treats them as distinct categories. Neither of these categories is about sex crimes. Transgender people are a fairly small population in the District, and yet are reported in the press as one of the most frequently attacked groups in our city. Violence against transgender people is so common, that the hearing coincidently fell on a day to memorialize transgender people who have been murdered in hate crimes. We are unable to tell from this report if hate crimes against transgender people are up, down, or steady. We are unable to tell if the increase in the Sixth District are actually based on sexual orientation, or as one might guess on gender identity or expression. The report makes transgender people entirely invisible, and dismisses both their lives and their deaths.

It is entirely unreasonable to think that no one in the MPD, the Mayor's Office, the Office of LGBT Affairs, or anyone else involved in tracking hate crimes or producing this report could be unaware of the existence of transgender people, the law's gender-identity or expression category, or hate crimes based on that category. To report that no anti-transgender hate crimes have occurred in the past five years, is lying to the Council and defrauding the public.

It is unreasonable to claim that some categories are combined or excluded because of FBI reporting requirements. If D.C. counted gender-identity and expression based hate crimes as sexual orientation based hate crimes would mean that D.C. falsified reports to the FBI.

The report also deliberately obscures how the District responds to hate crimes....

Read the whole thing here.

Rosendall criticizes police failure to track anti-trans hate crimes

Here is a video clip of my testimony for GLAA at the November 20 D.C. Council hearing on hate crimes, chaired by Councilmember Phil Mendelson, chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary:

Note: If you saw my testimony for the marriage equality bill on October 26, you may notice that this time I spoke much more slowly. That is partly because I had more time than at the marriage hearing, and partly because I was referring to notes I had scribbled in response to the prior testimony of Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

(Hat tip: David Mariner)

Activists fault police chief on hate crimes, liaison unit

Metro Weekly reports:

Little more than two years ago, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy Lanier sat with members of the local LGBT community and promised that the force's award-winning Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) would not shrink or disband under her leadership.

At that summer 2007 meeting, Lanier said she intended to expand the unit's services by training officers from all seven police districts to respond to calls that the centralized GLLU in Dupont Circle would normally handle.

Yet two years later the GLLU has gone from a full-time sergeant and seven officers, to two officers and a part-time sergeant. Sgt. Carlos Mejia, who also heads the Latino Liaison Unit, now heads the GLLU. MPD's special liaison units (SLU) also include the Asian Liaison Unit and the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit....

Beyond the GLLU specifically, other areas addressed Friday included the September 2008 homicide of a gay man, Tony Randolph Hunter, and the handling of that case by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia; and Mayor Adrian Fenty's Bias-related Crime Report, dated Nov. 19, which states that in 2008 anti-LGBT hate crimes increased 15 percent from the previous year.

"[The report] contains a glaring omission that severely undercuts the credibility of the rest of the report," Rick Rosendall, of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), said in his testimony. "While the word 'transgender' appears several times in descriptions of the GLBT community, and 'gender identity or expression' is included among the protected categories, 'gender identity or expression' is not included as a 'type of bias' in the table of hate crimes.... To learn that our own police are not even tracking anti-transgender hate crimes as such is mind-boggling."

Virginia Appeals Court Gives Full Faith and Credit to North Carolina Custody Order for Gay Dads

Art Leonard reports:

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of Virginia ruled on November 24 that the Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court had properly accorded full faith and credit, as required by the U.S. Constitution, to a North Carolina judicial decision awarding primary legal and residential custody of a child to two gay men (who are registered California domestic partners). Still pending before the lower court is a demand by the woman who served as surrogate mother for this child that the North Carolina custody ruling be modified to give her sole custody....

The majority of the panel ruled, in an opinion by Judge Cleo E. Powell, that under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Virginia courts are obligated to recognize and enforce courts orders concerning custody and jurisdiction of children that are issued by courts of other states that had proper jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of the case....

The court also discussed the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which was intended to avoid "jurisdictional competition and conflict between State courts" by making clear that courts must respect custody decrees by "sister states." The court also noted that Virginia had adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which requires Virginia courts to "recognize and enforce" child custody determinations by the courts of other states. The court found that all the requirements of this statute were met by the North Carolina custody order.

Finally, the court found that the Virginia Marriage Amendment and the anti-same-sex marriage statute were essentially irrelevant to the issue of registering the North Carolina custody order because, as Judge Powell pointed out, "neither party is asking the Court to recognize Copeland and Spivey’s relationship." Furthermore, the North Carolina court, in determining that Copeland should be part of the custody proceeding there, had based this determination on Copeland long-standing relationship with the child, and not in any way on Copeland’s relationship with Spivey. As such, the Virginia amendment and statute were not implicated.

Pentagon priorities

Washington Post reader George Brazier offers a good comment on the Pentagon:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, like virtually all leaders in the U.S. government, has rightly vowed to do "everything in our power" to prevent another Fort Hood-type incident.

Here's something in our power: Take the scarce resources now being wasted on drumming out of the military competent, patriotic Americans who happen to be gay and instead focus them on people posing actual threats.

Keep up the pressure. Congress won't have the spine to act unless the public implants one.

The big fuss over Adam Lambert

Much is being made of Adam Lambert's performance the other night on the American Music Awards. I confess he is not my cup of tea, and I am glad that I do not use the same decorator, hair stylist, or tailor. I am idly curious as to whether the viewers who complained about him were more offended by his shoving a man's face in his crotch or his holding a couple of people on leashes. In any case, to each his own. If anyone is looking for things to take offense at, how about people who accuse gay couples of trying to destroy civilization simply for wanting legal protections, or the vicious anti-gay bill pending in Uganda, or the prospect of the President sending thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan? With all the hatred and misery in the world, getting worked up about Adam Lambert or Lady Gaga seems, well, perverse.

November 23, 2009

AP: More anti-gay, religious-motivated crimes reported

AP reports:

Reports of hate crimes against gays and religious groups increased sharply in 2008, according to FBI data released Monday.

Overall, the number of reported hate crimes increased about 2 percent. These same figures show a nearly 11 percent increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and a nearly 9 percent increase in hate crimes based on religion.

The largest category, racially motivated hate crimes, fell less than 1 percent.

Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay civil rights group, called the numbers unacceptable and said they showed the need for the expanded federal hate crimes law signed last month by President Barack Obama....

Less than a month ago, Obama signed a bill expanding those covered by the federal law against hate crimes. Previously, the law had protected those attacked on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.

The law signed by Obama now covers crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It also removes the restriction that federal authorities can launch investigations of victims who were engaged in federally protected activities like voting or free speech.

Because of the new federal law, the FBI will now have to track hate crimes based on gender identity, a point I made last Friday at a D.C. Council hearing on hate crimes.

Leonard Link: 9th Circuit Judges Defend Their Married Gay Employees

Art Leonard writes:

On November 18 and 19, two judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, sitting as part of the Employment Dispute Resolution (EDR) Plan for their court, responded to the impertinent move by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to interfere with the relief they had ordered earlier this year on behalf of gay employees of the federal courts within the Circuit who sought to enroll their spouses in the federal employee benefits plan program....

What was most interesting about the orders, however, was how they took on the Executive Branch on behalf of the circuit's gay employees.

In the case of Judge Reinhardt, this involved not only repeating his earlier explanation of why the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional to the extent that it would block this extension of benefits, but also demolishing the argument that the Justice Department has been making in the pending DOMA challenge brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in the U.S. District Court in Boston. The DOJ, put in the position of defending a logically indefensible statute, concocted its "neutrality" argument. The argument goes this way. In 1996, in the wake of the Hawaii Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision and the pending trial of that case, Congress could have enacted DOMA with the intention of keeping the federal government from getting embroiled in the controversial issue of same-sex marriage by preserving the "status quo" of one definition of marriage for all purposes of federal law - a definition that at that time matched the definition used in fact by all the states. DOJ argues that by adopting this uniform definition of marriage for federal law, Congress was being "neutral" in the midst of state-level controversy.

First, Reinhardt notes that this "post hoc justification would not survive the heightened scrutiny that ... likely applies to Levenson's claim." ... "Even under the more deferential rational basis review, however, this argument fails," he continued. "DOMA did not preserve the status quo vis-a-vis the relationship between federal and state definitions of marriage; to the contrary, it disrupted the long-standing practice of the federal government deferring to each state's decisions as to the requirements for a valid marriage."

Read the whole thing here.

Star Parker: D.C. sells out poor for gay marriage

Washington Examiner columnist Star Parker lets loose with a torrent of ignorance, slander, false alternatives, and scapegoating. She treats it as a given, of course, that for same-sex couples to marry is all about "baser instincts" and not about love, and that gay people exemplify "the breakdown of the American family." Never mind the fact that we in fact are trying our damndest to build families. She has made up her mind. And since the Archdiocese demands to get its way or it's going home, that's obviously gay people's fault. Just existing is blameworthy. Think of it as a gay variant on original sin.

Not a prayer

WaPo reports on the latest quest for government subsidy of religion, not to mention junk medicine:

The calls come in at all hours: patients reporting broken bones, violent coughs, deep depression.

Prue Lewis listens as they explain their symptoms. Then Lewis — a thin, frail-looking woman from Columbia Heights — simply says, "I'll go to work right away." She hangs up, organizes her thoughts and begins treating her clients' ailments the best way she knows how: She prays.

This is health care in the world of Christian Science, where the sick eschew conventional medicine and turn to God for healing. Christian Scientists call it "spiritual health care," and it is a practice they are battling to insert into the health-care legislation being hammered out in Congress.

Leaders of the Church of Christ, Scientist, are pushing a proposal that would help patients pay someone like Lewis for prayer by having insurers reimburse the $20 to $40 cost.

The provision was stripped from the bill the House passed this month, and church leaders are trying to get it inserted into the Senate version. And the church has powerful allies there, including Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who represents the state where the church is based, and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who said the provision would "ensure that health-care reform law does not discriminate against any religion."

But opponents of spiritual care coverage — a coalition of separation-of-church-and-state advocates, pediatricians and children's health activists — say such a provision would waste money, endanger lives and, in some cases, amount to government-funded prayer.

Sure, Orrin Hatch is against health care reform, but if there's an opportunity to help a constituent get a public subsidy for their quackery, why not?

Activists protest extreme bill pending in Uganda

Metro Weekly reports on last Thursday's protest outside the Embassy of Uganda:

The action was in solidarity with Sexual Minorities Uganda, which requested international support in fighting the proposed bill that would greatly expand the nation's laws criminalizing homosexuality. Consensual sex between men is currently punishable by 14 years in prison, but the new law would require people to expose to authorities those they know to be gay, expand the penalty for homosexuality to life in prison, and add the death penalty for HIV-positive men who engage in consensual gay sex — what the bill calls "aggravated homosexuality."

...Toward the midpoint of the afternoon protest, Bromley was given an audience with Ambassador Charles Ssentongo, for what Bromley later referred to as a "useful and informative discussion." According to Bromley, Ssentongo said the bill had been introduced by a private party and that the government had not taken a position. He also said, Bromley added, that he believed the debate was healthy and important, and that the discussion would take place in a tolerant manner.

Notably, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, in office since 1986, has garnered headlines in the past for his bigoted characterizations of gay people.

"I'm sure [Ambassador Ssentongo] doesn't want this kind of homophobia to be law," said Donald Hitchcock, of Advocates for Youth, "but the bill literally criminalizes allies. How can you debate publicly when there's going to be a witch hunt afterwards?"

Video: Wuerl on Manhattan Declaration

Courtesy The Washington Post:

November 22, 2009

Slim pickings in Palm Springs

"It has always been the great Palm Springs mystery: With all the gays, and all the money, floating around PS, why do the restaurants suck?"

Parham on Manhattan Declaration: 'tired Christian Right leaders'

Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, offers a stinging response to the Manhattan Declaration:

Before reading the latest moral declaration from the Christian Right about their troubled souls and moral priorities, I e-mailed early Friday morning a national religion reporter about the statement. I wrote that if these leaders' "hierarchy of issues" were abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom, then they "are neither reading from the Bible, nor listening to Jesus."

I suggested, "These issues are secondary to what Jesus said in his Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, and the Great Judgment passage in Matthew 25. And let's not forget the 10 Commandments and the prophets."

When the "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience" was released on the DeMossNews.com Web site, after an event at the National Press Club, I found nothing really new. The document centered on abortion, gay marriage and anxiety about Christians being persecuted, having their consciences coerced. "[W]e note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government," read the document....

Yet again, the Christian Right bypassed the Nazareth Manifesto, Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commandment and the Great Judgment passage. While they did cite Jesus from John 10:10 and Matthew 22:21, they made Jesus a secondary moral guide to their political agenda of criticizing President Obama and shrinking the Bible's moral vision.

AP story is here.

Right-wing religious leaders join for "Manhattan Declaration"

WaPo's D.C. Wire reported on Friday:

A highly influential group of conservative Christian leaders are releasing a document today that they have been working on for more than a year, an attempt to unify disparate religious conservatives. Even as political conservatives in the United States are fractured and the Republican Party in a period of soul-searching, you can see some religious conservatives attempting to coalesce, such as Pope Benedict's recent outreach to conservative Anglicans.

The document, called "The Manhattan Declaration," is embargoed until noon (when we'll have it for you) but it calls for Christians to regroup around opposition to abortion (and other "life" issues) and to recognition of same-sex marriage. The document calls for 'religious liberty' but people connected with the document say that is a reference to courts and civil authorities who are allowing gay marriage and abortion availability to advance and expand.

The positions aren't new here; what's new is the teaming up. On the stage at the National Press Club today will be Catholic leaders Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Rigali, Pentecostal leader Harry Jackson of Maryland and evangelical activist Tony Perkins. Signers include Chuck Colson and academics Timothy George and Robert George.

People involved with the document cited as evidence of their concern the current standoff between the Washington Catholic archdiocese and the D.C. City Council over a same-sex marriage bill, and the archdiocese's position that it won't be able to agree to the bill's requirements without violating Catholic teaching.

Mea culpa.

Thoughts at a vigil for Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado

A candlelight vigil was held at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Dupont Circle fountain, organized by Full Equality Now DC. A few dozen people gathered to commemorate gay teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, who was brutally murdered last week in Cayey, Puerto Rico. The police investigator on the case had suggested that Jorge deserved to be burned, dismembered and decapitated, saying, "people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen."

At the vigil, I saw familiar faces and unfamiliar ones. There were college students and old-timers. Several people shared their thoughts. I said something like this:

Last week was an unusually busy one for me as an activist. After such a week, I am acutely aware that there is so much misery in the world, and so little of me. If you do not take care of yourself, the world can swallow you up. Yet if you do not reach outside yourself and give of yourself, your spirit will be impoverished. So I have a simple prayer, to whatever forces are alive in the universe: that I have the strength to do what I can to leave the world a little better than I found it; that I have the imagination to recognize what I can do; that I have the will to do it; and that I use the tools that are available to help widen the circle of those working to make a positive difference.

Last week, after The Washington Blade was shut down, Rev. Anthony Evans, one of the anti-gay ministers who is fighting against our marriage equality, sent a note to Lou Chibbaro saying, "The shutdown of the Blade is God's will." But the real miracle was the rebirth of the Blade as DC Agenda just four days after the staff were locked out of their offices. Their action to preserve a 40-year-old journalistic tradition showed what can be accomplished with determination and cooperation. It was an act of hope and confidence from which the rest of us can take inspiration.

We can answer the hatred of others by showing the endurance and resilience of our love. We can use every available tool, including our imperfect government, to demand justice for Jorge and accountability for the officer who talked as if he deserved what was done to him. By ourselves, our reach is limited; but together we can build all the connections that we need to ensure that the haters don't win.

November 21, 2009

Twelve groups answer archdiocese, urge marriage bill fix

GLAA joined with eleven other local and national groups in sending a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray and his colleagues on the marriage equality bill, anticipating the first reading of the bill set for the Council's Dec. 1 legislative meeting. The letter answers objections from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, and proposes an amendment. It makes some of the same arguments that I made in my letter to the editor that appeared in Thursday's Washington Post. Here are highlights:

I. Response to Objections

A. Spousal Benefits

In its November 10 letter to Councilmember Mendelson, the Archdiocese claims that the bill “leaves [it] susceptible to legal action for … refusal, on the basis of sincere religious belief, to provide a medical benefits plan for employees in which spousal medical benefits are provided to the same-sex marriage partner of a gay or lesbian employee.”

There are two defects in this argument.

First, we believe the Archdiocese has the ability to solve this problem without an amendment to the bill, and without offending its religious beliefs. When San Francisco enacted a law requiring employers to provide the same benefits to domestic partners as to married couples, the Archdiocese of San Francisco found that it could comply with that law and its beliefs by allowing each employee to designate one person — any person — as an additional beneficiary....

Second, this boat has already sailed. Religious employers such as Catholic Charities have already been obligated to provide spousal benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees since July 7, 2009, which was the effective date of D.C. Law No. 18-9, the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009....

Continue reading "Twelve groups answer archdiocese, urge marriage bill fix" »

Kirchick: Homophobia and AIDS funding can't coexist

Jamie Kirchick returns to the subject of the brutal oppression the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is helping to fund in Africa:

In spite of all that the program has accomplished ... a persistent problem remains: the promotion of homophobia by African governments receiving American aid money. In no nation is this problem more acute than in Uganda, one of 15 PEPFAR "focus" countries that collectively account for half of the world's HIV infections....

Uganda's campaign against homosexuality took a disturbing turn last month when a member of parliament in the nation's governing majority introduced legislation that would stiffen penalties for actual or perceived homosexual activity, which is already illegal under Ugandan law. According to the proposed law, "repeat offenders" could be sentenced to death, as would anyone engaging in a same-sex relationship in which one of the members is under the age of 18 or HIV-positive. Gay-rights advocacy would be illegal, and citizens would be compelled to report suspected homosexuals or those "promoting" homosexuality to police; if they failed to do so within 24 hours, they could also be punished....

Aside from its evident inhumanity, such draconian legislation will only do massive harm to HIV-prevention efforts.... This bill could make the very discussion of condom use and HIV prevention for gay men illegal. By driving gays even further underground, such governmental homophobia only ensures that HIV will continue to spread unabated....

From 2004 through 2008, Uganda received a total of $1.2 billion in PEPFAR money, and this year it is receiving $285 million more. Clearly, the United States has a great deal of leverage over the Ugandan government, and the American taxpayer should not be expected to fund a regime that targets a vulnerable minority for attack -- an attack that will only render the vast amount of money that we have donated moot.

We blogged last week on an open letter from Charles Francis to U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. Eric Goosby here. I wrote about the problem last March.

D.C. hate crime report fails to track anti-trans crimes

On Friday I delivered GLAA's testimony at Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson's hearing on hate crimes and police response to reports of hate crimes:

Yesterday, the Mayor’s office released a report titled “Bias-Related Crime in the District of Columbia.” It contains a glaring omission that severely undercuts the credibility of the rest of the report: while the word “transgender” appears several times in descriptions of the GLBT community, and “gender identity or expression” is included among the protected categories, “gender identity or expression” is not included as a “Type of Bias” in the table of hate crime statistics.

Reports in The Washington Blade and Metro Weekly in recent years have shown that transgender citizens are the targets of the greatest proportion of hate crimes. If they are included at all in this report, it appears that they are being lumped in with “sexual orientation,” despite being a separate category. We are glad that the report recognizes that “sexual orientation hate crimes account for a growing proportion of all hate crimes,” but the evident failure to track hate crimes based on gender identity or expression is unacceptable.

We understand that FBI reporting standards only include certain types of hate crimes, though these need to be revised based on the recently passed, transgender-inclusive federal hate crime law. But to the extent that FBI reporting standards are narrower than under D.C. law, the Metropolitan Police Department should separately track hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, and combine them if necessary in reporting to the FBI. The categories on the police incident report, Form PD-251, need to be updated to include all the D.C. categories.

Thanks to Bob Summersgill and Chris Farris for their help on this.

November 20, 2009

D.C. vigil for gay teenager murdered in Puerto Rico

This just in:

DC Vigil and Speakout for Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado and against Homophobia

Sunday, November 22
5 pm
Dupont Circle, NW Washington DC

This past Monday gay teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was brutally murdered in Cayey, Puerto Rico. In televised remarks, the police investigator on the case suggested Lopez Mercado deserved to be burned, dismembered and decapitated, saying, 'people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen.'

Please join us for a candlelight vigil and speakout remembering Lopez Mercado and speaking out against the double outrage of the murder and the investigator's disgusting remarks.

Sponsored by Full Equality Now DC, a grassroots organization fighting for LGBT rights in DC and nationally as part of Equality Across America. Please contact us to endorse.

dc.equality at gmail.com
please join our listserve dc-eaa at googlegroups.com

November 19, 2009

D.C. releases bias-related crime report

This afternoon we received a copy of the District of Columbia's Bias-Related Crime Report from Chris Dyer, head of the Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs. We are posting it for your review before having a chance to study it ourselves, but it will inform the testimony we submit for the record of Friday's hearing on hate crimes being held by the D.C. Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.

Queerty: Window Media's demise self-inflicted

Queerty joins the piling-on against Window Media:

It's an easy task to attack Window Media for faulty business practices that led to the company's demise. But so far, the most stinging commentary on the closure of the Blade newspapers comes from competitor Thomas E. Horn, publisher of the Bay Area Reporter, who just called out Window's brass for sinking the ship all on their own. That is: It wasn't the fault of the gay print media marketplace, but terrible leadership.

Countering Bishop Harry Jackson’s Gay Marriage Distortions

The Center for American Progress uses research from our friends at the Williams Institute to refute the anti-gay lies of Bishop Harry Jackson:

Recent and credible research has convincingly shown that Jackson’s views of the “privileged”—and largely white—gay and lesbian community are completely untrue and inaccurate. The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law has extensively analyzed credible government data comparing families in D.C. headed by same-sex couples to those headed by heterosexual couples.

The Williams Institute researchers found that same-sex couples living in the district are diverse in terms of race and income, among other factors. There are about 3,500 same-sex couples living in the district, including 225 who are legally married and 3,300 who are not married. The district has by far the highest concentration of unmarried same-sex partners of any state—13.2 per 1,000 households in DC; the next highest is Maine at 6.8.

Annual earnings of same-sex couples v. straight married couples in DCA 2007 analysis found that same-sex couple households can be found in every part of the district, and comprise 1.5 percent of all households and 5.1 percent of all coupled households. More than a quarter of these couples are African American, as the table-figure below shows. All told, one-third of same-sex couples living in the district are not white.

And contrary to Jackson’s claims of the gay community’s privilege and ability to earn more money than straight people, yearly earnings of men in same-sex couples are actually lower than those of married men....

Finally, about 8 percent of same-sex couples in the district are raising children under age 18. And these households have lower incomes compared to those headed by straight married parents.

Bay Windows slams Window Media's "gay newspaper killing spree"

Jeff Coakley and Sue O’Connell, co-publishers of the Boston gay newsweekly Bay Windows (where I have been a columnist for several years), respond to the closing of The Washington Blade with a scathing editorial on the Blade's fallen corporate parent, Window Media:

Just as the Blade turned 40, it came face to face with the grim reaper. The cause of death, however, was not the Internet or an economic advertising drain -- it was corporate greed and mismanagement. The corporate parent, Window Media-HX-Avalon Equity (yes, it’s confusing), has been on a gay newspaper killing spree (IN Newsweekly, the New England Blade, the Southern Voice, the Houston Voice, the South Florida Blade, 411, HX New York, and HX Philadelphia). All because of the old saw: they placed corporate greed before community.

A quick history lesson would have told them that gay media was established in order to provide a voice to a minority and to forward the fight for equal rights. When our community is viewed as a marketing demographic rather than a movement, the result should not be surprising. The death of Window Media was self-inflicted.

We’ve known and worked with many of the staffers at the Window chain and found them each to be good journalists and committed to the greater good of LGBT civil rights. Their bosses, however, left a trail of unpaid staffers. And as much as we love a good old-fashioned newspaper war, the idea of a gay newspaper launching in a city with the sole goal of putting the established newspaper out of business is simply bad for our community.

Window Media was blind and deaf to the needs of the local communities they were supposed to be serving. They entered into cities acting like jack-booted thugs, bullying freelance writers, advertisers, and community organizations.

Yes. William Waybourn, the former Window Media president who was responsible for much of the damage, deserves more journalistic scrutiny to hold him publicly accountable.

Demo at Ugandan Embassy today at 2 p.m.

If you can get away from the office, please join us today at 2 p.m. outside the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda, at 5911 16th Street, NW, for a demonstration of solidarity with Uganda's LGBTQ community in response to an atrocious anti-gay bill pending in that country. Here's the description from the organizers:

STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH UGANDA'S LGBTQ COMMUNITY

WHAT: Peaceful, lawful, vocal and united demonstration in solidarity with LGBTQ Ugandans, in protest against hate and oppression

WHERE: The Ugandan Embassy to the United States
5911 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011
2 miles north of Columbia Heights Metro on 16TH street
1 mile northwest of the Georgia Ave/Petworth Metro
Also accessible via 16th Street buses (S2, S4)

WHO: All of us, especially all LGBTQ equality and human rights allies

WHY: TO PROTEST BILL NO. 18--THE UGANDAN ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL.

Uganda's Penal Code Article 145a already criminalizes "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" – a charge used to prosecute, persecute and blackmail LGBT people with the threat of life imprisonment. The new bill would specifically penalize homosexuality, using life imprisonment to punish anything from sexual stimulation to simply "touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality." It also punishes "aggravated homosexuality" – including activity by "serial offenders" or those who are HIV positive – with the death penalty.

Continue reading "Demo at Ugandan Embassy today at 2 p.m." »

D.C. 2009 Transgender Day of Remembrance

Please join us on Friday, November 20, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. for D.C.'s observance of the 2009 Transgender Day of Remembrance. It will be held at the Metropolitan Community Church at 474 Ridge Street, NW. Here is a description from the organizers:

Join Transgender Health Empowerment, the DC Trans Coalition and others to commemorate the 2009 Trans Day of Remembrance with speakers and a nondenominational ceremony. Snacks will be provided. Speakers include Diego Sanchez, legislative aide to Senator Barney Frank, and Barry Peyton, father of recently murdered Ty'lia "Na Na Boo" Mack.

Contact dctranscoalition@gmail.com if you need help getting to the event, or if you have any questions. The closest metro station is Mt. Vernon Square/7th St. Convention Center (Green/Yellow Line).

You can read DCTC's statement about TDOR here.