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98 posts from May 2010

May 31, 2010

Are African gays paying the price for American culture wars?

2009_street_poster-thumb-400x566-25943 The answer to the above question is yes, in the rather patronizing view of Jonathan Clayton in the UK's Times Online:

Africa’s gays are paying the price for the ideological and cultural battle between US liberals and Conservatives. Concepts such as same-sex marriage, the ordination of gay and women priests, contraception and sex before marriage, female emancipation and equality — the litmus tests of tolerance in the politically correct West — sit uneasily in deeply conservative and traditional societies in Africa.

Uneducated and poor populations consider such actions as the immoral products of Western-inspired decadence and the root cause for the demise of the family — the bedrock of African society.

However, Western liberals have — as they have always done in Africa — paid scant attention to such sensitivities. Arguing that human rights are universal they have pushed the liberal agenda on populations and governments struggling with far more basic concerns and always sensitive to perceived erosions of their own cultural identity.

Societies where feminism means the right not to be beaten or forcibly circumcised, and where polygamy is widely accepted, found the leap to modern-day Western concerns too great. Local populations, especially in rural areas, are simply not ready to accept these imported values.

By bringing the issue into the open and combining it with what is seen as patronising financial bullying, they have created the exact opposite of that which they wanted.

A sort of tolerance, albeit unspoken, existed in villages and cities across Africa. A blind eye was turned towards gays and other “misfits”, such as a boy who refused to hunt in a warrior society, so long as their actions took place away from public scrutiny.

Jonathan Clayton repeats an old script rebuking advocates of equality for disrupting the oppressive status quo; treating Africans solely as victims incapable of responsibility for their own choices and actions; and sneeringly dismissing fundamental human rights principles as “imported values.”

Continue reading "Are African gays paying the price for American culture wars?" »

Malawi gay couple keep low profile after pardon

Steve_and_Tiwonge_leaveing_court_05202010 AP reports:

A gay couple from Malawi have kept out of the public eye after being pardoned and freed from prison, in what a relative said Sunday was a deliberate decision prompted by the conservative view of homosexuality in the southern African country.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were released late Saturday, hours after President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them without condition. But in giving his pardon, which he said was on "humanitarian grounds only," Mutharika warned that homosexuality remains illegal in the conservative southern African country.

Activists said late Saturday that they were searching for a safe house for the couple, fearing they could be attacked upon release.

Their safety is certainly a matter of concern. I will post updates as they become available.

May 30, 2010

Alan Sharpe's new play debuts this evening at Warehouse Theater

ASharp

Every year on Memorial Day weekend, African-American Collective Theater stages a reading of a new play by Alan Sharpe, a wonderful writer and winner of GLAA's 2009 Distinguished Service Award. This year's play is titled Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and there will be readings at 5:30 and 8:00 this evening:

The first June following D.C.’s legalization of same-sex marriage, two young black men encounter unexpected twists and turns along their bumpy road to the altar, in “Something Borrowed, Something Blue.”

Local actors Monte J. Wolfe, David Lamont Wilson, Donald Burch III, David Richardson, Kendell Lee, Sampson, Kris Broadway and Jason Evan Barrett are featured as, for the twelfth consecutive year, African-American Collective Theater (ACT) unveils a new gay-themed play in observance of D.C. Black Pride Weekend.

Sunday, May 30, 2010, ACT mounts the staged reading of the new drama by ACT founder/artistic director Alan Sharpe, as this year’s offering in an event that has become a Memorial Day weekend ritual for D.C. residents and visitors in town to celebrate the holiday and D.C. Black Pride. It continues a tradition, begun back in 1992 and inspired by the very first D.C. Black Pride celebration, which was held the previous year.

According to founder, Alan Sharpe, ACT’s annual event is a fundraiser for the production company’s various theater and film projects supporting its mission to “…showcase contemporary BLGBT life and culture, promote visibility and raise awareness of issues facing our community.”

This year’s performances, at 5:30 and 8 p.m., will once again be presented at the Warehouse Theater, which is currently undergoing renovations. The original entrance is now a restaurant, The Passenger. During construction, the entrance for theatrical performances has been moved around the corner to 645 New York Avenue, N.W., one block away from the D.C. Convention Center where D.C. Black Pride’s “LEGACY FESTIVAL AND WELLNESS EXPO” is being held earlier that afternoon.

A limited number of tickets are available at $15. For additional ticket, performance, and venue information, e-mail [email protected], or call 202-745-3662.

I look forward to attending the second reading, and hope to see some of you there. Alan's perceptive takes on current affairs, his perfect ear for dialog, and his wit are always a treat.

May 29, 2010

Malawi couple pardoned by President

Steven-monjeza-and-tiwonge-chimbalanga1

Wonderful news from Peter Tatchell:

Malawi couple pardoned by President

"Justice at last for Steven and Tiwonge"

London - 29 May 2010

President Bingu of Malawi has pardoned the couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were recently senenced to 14 years hard labour on charges of homosexuality.

Peter Tatchell, the British human rights campaigner who has championed Steven and Tiwonge's case and support them personally, arranging prison visits, food parcels and medicine, said

"Our thanks to President Bingu and Ban Ki Moon for ending this terrible injustice. Steven and Tiwonge should never have been arrested, let alone jailed for five months, convicted and sentenced to 14 years hard labour. They love one another and have harmed no one.

"I hope the government of Malawi will now show true humanitarian leadership by repealing the criminalisation of homosexuality and enacting laws to protect gay people against discrimination and hate crimes, as South Africa has done.

"As someone who supported the people of Malawi in the 1970s and 80s, when they struggled against the dictatorship of Dr Hastings Banda, I urge the Malawian government to continue the transition to democracy and human rights by ensuring equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens," said Mr Tatchell.

ENDS

This has probably saved the life of Steven Monjeza, whose health was failing in Chichiri prison even before his post-sentencing transfer to Zomba Prison, which separated him from Tiwonge who gave him encouragement. Thanks to everyone who raised their voices, especially the matchless Peter Tatchell. We have so much more work to do, but this is a moment of vindication and joy. Chalk one up for the international LGBT community.

Update: Paul Canning reports at LGBT Asylum News.

Update 2: NYT reports, "The White House hopes it's a new day for gay rights in the African nation of Malawi and around the world."

May 28, 2010

Thank this man and elect others like him

KeithSmall I received the following message today from Rep. Keith Ellison, the U.S. Representative from the Fifth District of Minnesota:

Last night, I joined my Democratic House colleagues in voting to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), the discriminatory policy that denies our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) soldiers the right to openly serve in our armed forces. The vote is a long overdue milestone in our efforts to advance equality and inclusion.

Our service members make great sacrifices to protect our freedoms. It is right and just that we allow them to serve regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Doing so will not only strengthen our military, but send the message that we accept people for who they are. For their service and sacrifice, we owe it to our LGBT soldiers to let them serve our country openly, just like everyone else.

Rep. Ellison, who (I am happy to say) boasts about his support for LGBT equality in his fundraising letters, happens to be the first Muslim elected to Congress. If you Google his name, you will find all sorts of crazies who obsess about this good man and think that people should not be allowed to vote for a Muslim (the constitutional prohibition of religious tests notwithstanding). Ultimately, what we are fighting over is whose vision of America will prevail. We can embrace an America that is nativist, isolationist, fundamentalist, and feels entitled to ignore the rules by which it expects others to abide, Or we can embrace an America that holds itself to its own principles, an America that honestly faces the reality of its diversity and treats the challenges attendant on that diversity as a source of strength. The know-nothings are fighting for their vision, and we need to fight for ours.

After the 2006 election that first sent Ellison to Congress, right-wing talk radio host Dennis Prager vehemently objected to Ellison's plan to take his ceremonial oath of office using the Holy Qu'ran. I wanted to introduce Prager to the Constitution, since he was clearly unfamiliar with it. Ellison's response was simple and brilliant: he asked the Library of Congress if they would mind loaning him Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Qu'ran. They were delighted. Below is a photo of the occasion. Take that, theocrats! We cannot defeat these obnoxious ignoramuses in the abstract; we need the Keith Ellisons and the Tammy Baldwins to step forward, just as we needed gay and lesbian veterans to work the halls of Congress on the recent DADT repeal lobby day. Step up, speak up, and thank our allies. This battle on the home front is every bit as important as the ones our servicemembers are fighting overseas.

Ellison_oath

Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day set for June 15

Steven-monjeza-and-tiwonge-chimbalanga1

This came in this morning from Michael Petrelis:

June 15 = Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day;
NYC, Pretoria, SF: Free Tiwonge & Steven!

NEW YORK CITY, PRETORIA AND SAN FRANCISCO (May 28) -- Human rights activists across the world have declared Tuesday, June 15 The Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day. On this day, people across the globe will demonstrate against the homo- and transphobia demonstrated by the Malawai courts and government in sentencing Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years of hard labor. The judgment came after months of imprisonment, stemming from an engagement party the couple had in this traditionally homophobic country.

Since the couple was placed in prison, people throughout the world have vigorously condemned their treatment. Thus far, groups in three cities -- New York City, Pretoria, South Africa and San Francisco -- have planned protests to support the couple. Other cities are expected to hold similar demonstrations on Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day. Protesters are demanding that the Malawian government immediately free Tiwonge and Steven from prison.

The presiding judge, Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa, condemned Tiwonge and Steven's love when he handed down the 14-year sentence to each: “I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public will be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example. We are sitting here to represent the Malawi society, which I do not believe is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons, or conducting engagement ceremonies.”

The logistics of the first three protests are:

Continue reading "Malawian Trans-Gay Unity Day set for June 15" »

House votes to repeal DADT

WaPo reports:

The House voted Thursday night to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the controversial policy barring openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military.

The measure -- an amendment to a defense policy bill -- passed 234 to 194, delivering a major victory to gay rights activists who have opposed the Pentagon policy since it was enacted in 1993. It also marks the most aggressive step by Democrats in implementing President Obama's campaign pledge to end the policy.

The legislation includes a provision ensuring that no change would take effect until the Pentagon completes a study about its impact on troops, due to Congress Dec. 1. It also requires that a policy change would not affect the military's ability to fight wars or recruit soldiers.

Democrats pushed ahead on the issue over the objections of some key military leaders, who said Congress should have waited to vote until the study is complete.

Twenty-six Democrats voted against the amendment, while five Republicans voted for it.

Earlier Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee also voted to change the policy, on a 16 to 12 vote. Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) joined 11 Republicans in opposing the change, while Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted with the Democrats. The full Senate is likely to consider the issue next month.

Bravo to Speaker Pelosi, the House Democrats, and those five House Republicans. And here's a boo to Sen. Webb and a cheer to Sen. Collins. Next up: Sen. McCain's filibuster. Since every argument in support of the military gay ban is a fabrication, expect a lot of angry lies and claims that everyone who disagrees with him is trying to destroy America. Whatever. Say goodnight, Senator.

May 27, 2010

Sister Margaret’s Choice

Sister_Margaret_McBride Nicholas Kristof writes in NYT about another case that shows the moral obtuseness of the Catholic Church hierarchy:

The excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride in Phoenix underscores all that to me feels morally obtuse about the church hierarchy. I hope that a public outcry can rectify this travesty.

Sister Margaret was a senior administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. A 27-year-old mother of four arrived late last year, in her third month of pregnancy. According to local news reports and accounts from the hospital and some of its staff members, the mother suffered from a serious complication called pulmonary hypertension. That created a high probability that the strain of continuing pregnancy would kill her.

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” the hospital said in a statement. “This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee.”

Sister Margaret was a member of that committee. She declined to discuss the episode with me, but the bishop of Phoenix, Thomas Olmstead, ruled that Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated” because she assented to an abortion.

“The mother’s life cannot be preferred over the child’s,” the bishop’s communication office elaborated in a statement....

I heard about Sister Margaret from an acquaintance who is a doctor at the hospital. After what happened to Sister Margaret, he doesn’t dare be named, but he sent an e-mail to his friends lamenting the excommunication of “a saintly nun”:

“She is a kind, soft-spoken, humble, caring, spiritual woman whose spot in Heaven was reserved years ago,” he said in the e-mail message. “The idea that she could be ex-communicated after decades of service to the Church and humanity literally makes me nauseated.”

“True Christians, like Sister Margaret, understand that real life is full of difficult moral decisions and pray that they make the right decision in the context of Christ’s teachings. Only a group of detached, pampered men in gilded robes on a balcony high above the rest of us could deny these dilemmas.”

(Photo of Sister Margaret McBride, RSM)

Bishops call on Zuma to act on Malawi jailing

Archbishop_thabo_makgoba_aug09 Mamba Online reports:

Anglican bishops in Southern Africa have called on the South African government to lobby for the release of the gay couple recently jailed in Malawi.

In a statement issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Cecil Makgoba, the bishops said that while "there is a breadth of theological views among us on matters of human sexuality we are united in opposing the criminalisation of homosexual people".

The bishops described the sentence of 14 years hard labour imposed on Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga simply for being gay as "a gross violation of human rights" and strongly condemned "such sentences and behaviour towards other human beings".

The statement calls on President Zuma and the government to uphold the principles and values of the South African constitution in their external relations and to engage in dialogue with other governments on the rights of minorities.

"In particular we call on our President and Government to lobby the Government of Malawi at every level to uphold the commitment it shares through the SADC treaty to promote human rights.

"We urge them to press for the swift release of these two individuals, who have committed no act of violence or harm against anyone; for the quashing of the sentence against them; and for the repeal of this repressive legislation."

The bishops furthermore stated their "deep concern" at the violent language used against the gay community across Sub-Saharan Africa, and at the increased legal action being taken against gay individuals, communities and organisations.

"Even in South Africa we are aware of instances of violence against the gay and lesbian community. We therefore appeal to law-makers everywhere to defend the rights of these minorities," they said.

"We commit ourselves to teach, preach and act against any laws that undermine human dignity and oppress any and all minorities, even as we call for Christians and all people to uphold the standards of holiness of life."

As Barrett Brick writes from Johannesburg, "Some clerics get it right."

(Photo of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba)

D.C. Council supports Uniting American Families Act

Gay+marriage_men
(Photo: Getty Images)

NBC Washington reports:

Next week the D.C. Council will discuss a resolution showing support of the Uniting American Families Act pending in Congress.

Councilman At-Large David Catania authored the resolution last week, and the other 12 members of the council co-introduced it.

U.S. immigration law does not allow same-sex citizens and permanent residents to sponsor foreign-born partners for immigration benefits.

The UAFA, introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would "amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships."

"As the country moves to expand the rights of its gay and lesbian citizens, it is important to remove barriers to the enjoyment of these rights," Catania said. "Same-sex couples where one partner is not a U.S. citizen are currently forced to choose from a range of unpalatable alternatives, including remaining in a costly long-distance international relationship, allowing the foreign-born partner to remain undocumented, or allowing a visa to lapse, which generates daily uncertainty and the fear of deportation."

On the council's agenda next Tuesday is a resolution to deliver to Congress showing the District's support of the UAFA.

Thanks to David Catania and his colleagues for this resolution. Discrimination against binational gay couples harms tens of thousands of families, including my own, while helping no one.

Detained Zimbabwe gay activists beaten and tortured

Welcome_to_zimbabwe

Violet Gonda of the Zimbabwe Telegraph reports:

A lawyer representing the two employees arrested Friday from the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, said his clients have been beaten and tortured in custody as part of an orchestrated attempt to target homosexuals, and to try and extract information.

David Hofisi told SW Radio Africa: “Our clients have complained of beatings and torture yesterday. They were beaten on the knees using coca cola bottles and forced into sitting positions without chairs.”

The lawyer said the police were trying to extract information from them relating to the membership of the gay rights group; “They also wanted to know where these members live and to know their partners.”

GALZ administrator Ellen Chademana and accountant Ignatius Muhambi, were arrested last Friday on charges of ‘insulting the office of the President’ and for allegedly possessing ‘pornographic material’. They are still in police custody.

Their lawyer said the police had also wanted to charge them for ‘possessing dangerous drugs’ but that charge has been removed because they have not shown any evidence.

On Wednesday the defence team applied for an urgent High Court application to assess whether their clients’ detention is still lawful, as the police have not produced a warrant of further detention. They have also applied for bail in the magistrates court. Both matters are expected to be heard on Thursday.

But on Wednesday the harassment continued, as police raided the house of the GALZ director Chesterfield Samba.

A partner organisation of the group, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, said Samba was not at home during the latest raid by the police but that the police went ahead and searched the house and confiscated his ‘birth certificate, passport, magazines and business cards’. Family members said the police wanted to know his whereabouts and when he would return.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said: “The Forum condemns this conduct by the police in the strongest terms. The conduct of the police is unwarranted and is testament of the levels of intolerance within the police force and our government. Further the Forum questions the independence of the police in executing what clearly are political instructions against the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe.”

“The Forum reiterates its calls to all civil society organisations to stand in support of GALZ as fellow comrades in the struggle for human rights, being mindful of the fact that such repression can easily happen to any organisation fighting impunity in this country.”

(Hat tip: African Activist)

May 26, 2010

"Dickens in the tropics"

Prison-africa001
Prisoners sleeping in Malawi's Muala Prison. (Photo: Foreign Prisoner Support Service)

Since the news came this morning that Steven Monjeza has been separated from his lover Tiwonge Chimbalanga and sent from Chichiri Prison to Zomba Prison, it is sobering to see how awful the conditions in Malawi's prisons are. An article on African prisons by the Foreign Prisoner Support Service describes Malawi's high-security prisons as "Dickens in the tropics, places of cruel, but hardly unusual punishment. Prosecutors, judges, even prison wardens agree that conditions are unbearable, confinements intolerably long, justice scandalously uneven."

A Wikipedia entry on the Malawi prison system states:

Zomba Central Prison built in 1935 is the only maximum security prison in the country, holding prisoners with long sentences or serious offences. Severe overcrowding throughout the prison system provides a conducive environment for the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis.

Here is a passage from an article by PlusNews on HIV in prison:

Homosexual activity is illegal in every southern African country with the exception of South Africa. However, according to UNAIDS, 8.4 percent of men in the Zambian prison of Kamfinsa reported anal sex in a study in 1995, with the true figure likely to be higher. A 1999 Penal Reform International study of Zomba prison in Malawi reported respondents as estimating that between 10 to 60 percent of prisoners had participated in homosexual activity at least once.

Three aspects of man-to-man sexual activity in prison make it a high risk for HIV transmission: anal intercourse, rape and the presence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Related problems in prisons across Southern Africa include overcrowding, shortages, corruption, and the presence of juveniles alongside adult prisoners.

The Zomba study noted that those who served as the "receptive partner" were usually: "recently detained, either juveniles or young adults, who have no blanket, soap, plates or food. They have no relatives from the outside to help them and care for them, they are in physical need and confused by their recent detention, and they turn to somebody to care for them. The ones they usually turn to are those who have outside supplies. The relationship between them was described as similar to that between a poor prostitute and a rich client."

I will post further updates and an address for writing to Steven Monjeza in Zomba prison as soon as I get them.

Zimbabwe gay leader's home raided

Galzlogog Dennis H. from Gay Activists Alliance International (no relation) reports the latest government action against Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe:

I have received notification by a sister GAAIer in Zimbabwi and member of GALZ that there leaders home was raided by police this morning, others are in fear that they will be the next--

This is on the day that the two previously arrested at GALZ offices are in court which is going on as present--

I am waiting for our sister to confirm more, hopefully afer the court today--

We will post updates as they become available.

Monjeza moved to Zomba prison

Monjeza Peter Tatchell reports:

Tiwonge & Steven split up by Malawi authorities

Steven transferred to notorious Zomba prison

Most Malawians say 14 years is too harsh

Lawyers expect appeal hearing at end of June


London and Blantyre – 26 May 2010

“The decision by the Malawian authorities to to split up jailed lovers, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, is a cruel, malicious and vindictive attempt to cause the couple psychological distress and heartache.

“Steven has been transferred this week to Zomba prison, separating him from his partner, Tiwonge,” reports London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!, who has been assisting and supporting the couple since their arrest on homosexuality charges last December.

“Previously, the couple were jailed together in Chichiri prison, where Tiwonge remains. Although held in separate cells, in Chichiri they were able to see each other briefly from time to time.

“Now they will have no contact at all. This move will be particularly hard for Steven. Of the two, he is more vulnerable and stressed. Tiwonge, in contrast, is robust and resilient.

“I fear that this separation may have an adverse impact on Steven’s mental and physical well-being. He was seriously ill for a month and is still not fully well. His isolation from Tiwonge is likely to be a severe blow to his morale. It could cause his health to relapse.

“Last weekend, just days after they were sentenced to 14 years hard labour on charges of homosexuality, reports from inside Chichiri prison said that both Tiwonge and Steven were cheerful and in good spirits. Despite their harsh sentence, they seemed unbowed and determined to carry on their fight for justice.

“Anecdotal reports suggest that most Malawians think the 14-year jail sentence is too harsh. Even many people who disagree with homosexuality seem to believe it is excessive and disproportionate. Some armed robbers, child sex abusers, rapists and killers get lighter sentences.

“Lawyers for Steven and Tiwonge say their appeal may be heard around the end of June. They suggest that Steven might be returned to Chichiri prison once the appeal process begins, which could be in about four weeks or so.

“The couple’s lawyers are optimistic that on appeal to the higher courts the 14 year sentence will be reduced or annulled.

“I hope they are right but I am sceptical, given that the High Court refused to give Steven and Tiwonge bail and refused to rule that their prosecution was unconstitutional. My fear is that the appeal court may reduce the jail term but not revoke it,” said Mr Tatchell.

See more background to the sentence:
http://www.petertatchell.net/international/14-years-for-malawi-couple-is-brutal.html

At this point, we can only pray that Steven will find the strength to endure, as we keep up the international pressure on Malawi to end this injustice.

May 25, 2010

Obama backs DADT repeal compromise

Gay-Military WaPo reports on the breakthrough in the effort to repeal the military gay ban this year. Aubrey Sarvis of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reacts:

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.

“If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months. This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.

“We would not have reached this moment without the leadership and commitment of our allies on the Hill – Senators Joe Lieberman and Carl Levin, and Congressman Patrick Murphy; they all worked tirelessly to get us this far.

“For the upcoming votes in the House and Senate to succeed, it is critical that all proponents for full repeal weigh in now. The blogosphere and activists have been admirably pressing for full repeal this year and we are grateful for their help. Everyone in support of repeal needs to continue contacting their Members of Congress and ask for the vote.”

Malawi's indecent practices

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My column this week concerns the outrageous prison sentences given to a Malawi couple last week merely for being gay:

On May 20, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced to 14 years hard labor in Malawi for "unnatural offences" and "indecent practices between males." As they were handcuffed to each other and led from the courtroom, a large crowd jeered them. Chimbalanga remained composed and said "I am not worried," but Monjeza sobbed.

British activist Peter Tatchell reported that Monjeza "is thin and weak and has jaundiced eyes, according to an eye-witness who saw him last weekend." Amnesty International has declared Monjeza and Chimbalanga prisoners of conscience, and calls their sentence an outrage.

In January, several dozen African civil society organizations denounced the trial and demanded repeal of the colonial-era penal code provisions that were used. They said that "the arrest and prosecution of Monjeza and Chimbalanga not only undermines the response to HIV but is a violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Malawian Constitution." Malawi’s HIV prevention programs targeting men who have sex with men are not helped by driving this population further underground....

The British Home Office [needs] to stop its practice of claiming that [gay] asylum applicants can safely return to their countries of origin if they hide who they are. By that logic, Monjeza and Chimbalanga are being punished not for loving each other, but for being indiscreet. Are we willing to accept such an insult from a government that claims to respect our rights? If we do, then we deserve to be in Chichiri Prison in Steven’s and Tiwonge’s place.

Read the whole thing for tips on how you can help.

Australia archbishop: Church culture tied to abuse

AP reports:

The Roman Catholic Church's culture of discretion and focus on "sin and forgiveness rather than crime and punishment" were among ingrained factors that ultimately led to the child sex abuse scandal and cover-up surrounding the church today, a pre-eminent Australian bishop said Monday.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, whose archdiocese is based in the national capital of Canberra, took the unusual step of writing an open letter attempting to explain the culture that led the church to turn a blind eye to priests accused of molesting children.

Factors include a determination to protect the church's reputation, a culture of discretion, "institutionalized immaturity" of priests fostered by seminary training, and an outlook of "sin and forgiveness rather than crime and punishment," Coleridge wrote....

"All can see that this is a time of crisis for the Catholic Church ... there will be no quick fix to this problem, the roots of which go deep and wide." ...

Broken Rites Australia, a support group for victims of clergy sex abuse, said the church's failing as outlined by Coleridge was unforgivable.

"The archbishop's comments show how the Catholic Church hierarchy have covered up sex abuse and dealt very badly with the victims," group president Chris MacIsacc said. "But there is no excuse for not understanding that rape, sodomy and child sex abuse is a crime. To be more concerned for the perpetrator of crime than the victim is unforgivable."

Church officials love to say that other people — especially dissenting clergy — should practice greater humility, by which they mean shut up and do as they say. The princes of the Church should look in the mirror and humbly acknowledge that they themselves are not above the law.

May 24, 2010

Gallup: Opposition to gay marriage eases

Jennifer Vanasco reports at 365gay.com:

Opposition to gay marriage has returned to 2007 levels, according to an annual Gallup Poll on American beliefs.

Gallup says that 53 percent of Americans are against gay marriage; 44 percent are in favor. Last year, 57 percent were against and 40 percent were in favor. In 2007, though, 53 percent were against and 46 percent of Americans were in favor of gay marriage.

53 percent is the lowest rate of opposition that Gallup has recorded. When Gallup first asked this question in 1996, 68 of Americans were opposed and 27 in favor.

Liberals are most supportive: 70 percent of them support gay marriage, compared to 25 percent of conservatives.

Ah, the long-term numbers look good, but I have to live my life now.

DADT repeal numbers too close to call

WaPo reports:

The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to vote by the end of the week on an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would end "don't ask, don't tell," which Congress passed in 1993. Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) favors a repeal, but it is unclear whether he has enough votes, with six senators on the panel considered undecided, legislative sources said.

The House is expected to vote on a similar measure this week, based on a repeal proposal sponsored by Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq war veteran. The House Armed Services Committee declined to act on Murphy's bill in passing its version of the defense spending measure last week, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told gay advocacy groups that she will allow a floor vote if there is enough support in favor of a repeal.

"This is our 'all hands on deck' moment," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which represents gays who have been drummed out of the armed forces. "For repeal to succeed, it is critical that all proponents for full repeal weigh in now, including the White House. We are only a few days away from this historic vote."

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama called on Congress to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have subsequently told Congress that they support allowing gays to serve openly, raising hopes among advocates who have fought against the law for years.

Since then, however, momentum has stalled, with Congress slow to act amid conflicting signals from the White House on how to proceed.

In his January speech, Obama said he would work with Congress to repeal the law "this year." But the White House has also lent support to an April 30 letter from Gates and Mullen to Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, urging lawmakers not to lift the ban until after the Defense Department has finished a study on how to integrate gays in the military. That study is scheduled to be completed by December.

I can't imagine a study less needed. Shall we ask the poor dears charged with defending our country if they would mind terribly if we changed their orders? Bah. Pass the damn thing already. For "Stories from the Frontlines," check out SLDN. Servicemembers United is here.

Update: AP reports here on a compromise that's in the works. But what's this crap about Democrats being afraid of getting "too far ahead of public opinion" when public opinion FAVORS repeal of DADT? It took me a few seconds to find this story from WaPo from February, which reports that 75 percent of Americans support repeal. The same Google search brought up several other stories reporting the same thing. This is not news. That people purporting to be on our side keep hiding behind this mythical public opposition is quite exasperating. They'd damn well better work something out.

Ester Goldberg's Weekly Wrap

Better late than never (we were distracted by family obligations), our friend Ester's Weekly Wrap for May 21 has the showbiz schmooze you might have missed. Her summary:

In this episode: Charlie Sheen gets a mega-payday (after all, what would Monday be without "Two and a Half Men"?); Jim Belushi gets another series (We don't know why either); Campbell Brown exits CNN (Will the last one out close Larry King's barn door?); teen girls are on the rampage against Twitter (Less Bieber? More ballistic!); and Facebook apparently had its origins in a drunken rage (underage drinking isn't usually so productive). So sit your tookus down and watch ...

Zimbabwe police raid LGBT organization

Galz

LGBT Asylum News reports:

Zimbabwean police have arrested two employees of the country’s only gay and lesbian group, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in a raid on the group's HQ.

They were arrested following the issuing of a search warrant by Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi for "dangerous drugs and pornographic material". Magwenzi has been involved in disappearances and extended illegal detentions of opposition MDC activists and of journalists.

Magwenzi has been implicated in torture by civil society activists....

Already police have refused to allow access by lawyers to the two GALZ employees Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi. They took all the GALZ computers and other materials from the office.

In addition to general concerns about the fate of the two, Chademana is diabetic and there are concerns for her heath.

GALZ fears that other arrests will follow.

GLAA first dealt with GALZ in 1995 after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe began his anti-gay crusade. British activist Peter Tatchell wrote a tribute last fall to the late Keith Goddard, director of GALZ. Tatchell describes his two attempted citizen's arrests of Mugabe here. The Zimbabwe page of the British LGBT group Outrage! is here. We share the concerns about the safety of Chademana and Muhambi, and will post updates as they become available.

Update: Mamba Online reports here.

The Island of Misfit Pervs

David Kurtz at TPM gave the above headline to this story about a California gubernatorial candidate's proposal to banish all the state's convicted pedophiles to an island in the Pacific (which the candidate calls Pedophile Island, though its actual name is Santa Rosa Island).

May 22, 2010

Current TV: Missionaries of Hate

Current TV airs a weekly documentary series titled Vanguard.  On Wednesday May 26 they will premiere a program titled "Missionaries of Hate" that covers the role American religious leaders such as Rick Warren and Scott Lively play in the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality bill.  You can watch the full 45 minute program (plus commercials) after the jump or view it now on Hulu.  Much like our city's own Bishop Jackson, they make hatred a party.   The program also makes plain the unnatural fascination Martin Ssempa has with homosexuality and gay pornography.

According to Ssempa, the United Nations, American billionaire George Soros, and country of Sweden are all part of a vast conspiracy to spread homosexuality in Uganda and across Africa in general.

Continue reading "Current TV: Missionaries of Hate" »

May 21, 2010

DADT Repeal and the Experience of our Allies

Columbia Law School's ;Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic has published Open Service and Our Allies:  A Report on the Inclusion of Openly Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers in U.S. Allies' Armed Forces a report that examines the transition to open military service in Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom.  The report covers the effects of the change on unit cohesion and military performance, barracks and showers, sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policies, and relationship recognition.  Besides the experiences these four countries had in making the change the report discusses how US forces have interacted with our allies  in UN peace keeping, NATO, and with the the Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.Of the 24 countries that allow for gay services members (some of which allow transgender servicemembers) the US has conducted training and combat missions with 22 of them.
Importantly, no one has reported that the presence of openly gay and lesbian members of other countries’ militaries has had a negative effect on the ability of U.S. troops to serve effectively. For example, referring to gay soldiers under his command, Glenn Truitt, a former submarine officer and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, said "[t]he homosexual men I knew in the military were much more professional about their sexuality than the heterosexuals, if only because they had to be" to gain full acceptance. The ability of U.S. soldiers to serve alongside openly gay and lesbian servicemembers from other countries in the Iraq war “demonstrates that the morale and cohesion of our forces is simply not affected by the presence of openly gay soldiers.”
Other reports have highlighted the benefits that allowing openly gay servicemembers will bring to the armed forces.  Besides stemming the loss of trained personnel it has been estimated that over 26 thousand additional recruits would be acquired and that gay people serve for a longer period of time.  The conclusions from the report are
The overwhelming weight of our evidence points in one direction. Even though some concerns existed over allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly in the countries reviewed here, they were and continue to be effectively addressed. Through meaningful education and training programs, strong anti- discrimination policies, and clear reporting measures, the fears espoused by those opposed to lifting the ban, including, for example, loss of unit cohesion or military readiness, never came to pass. Not only were these fears unfounded, but even more compellingly, the experiences of our allies show that allowing open service increased the morale and military performance of those gay and lesbian servicemembers previously forced to hide their sexual orientation and likewise enhanced the performance of their military friends and colleagues.
(via Nan Hunter)

May 20, 2010

Rand Paul doesn't like segregated lunch counters, but wouldn't block them

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Watching Rand Paul evade Rachel Maddow's persistent questioning last evening, and listening to his doctrinaire libertarian distinction between government policy and private business owners' rights, it was clear that clinging to ideological purity is an excuse for ignoring injustices and setting aside our obligations to one another in a diverse society. But in revealing his extremism so quickly after his primary victory, Paul has done us a favor. It remains to be seen how the full Kentucky electorate reacts to him, but to the extent that he speaks for the Tea Party, and unless they firmly repudiate his position, let the segregated lunch counters be hung around their necks, along with their leader Mark Williams's disgusting comment that Muslims worship a "monkey god." (It is amazing, BTW, that people so exhibitionistically ignorant can call other people monkeys.)

A Republican Senate led by the unprincipled Mitch McConnell and featuring Rand Paul as his state's junior senator would do a lot for the re-election of Barack Obama, but it would be dreadful for the country. I wish the Get Equal protesters, with their threat to "Remember in November" (that is, punish) allies who do not immediately give us everything we want, would learn that anger as a political platform is likelier to result in recklessness and ignorance than equal rights. The alternative to an imperfect ally is not a better ally, but someone who'd love to see Sarah Palin as President.

Malawi gay couple sentenced to 14 years hard labor

Tiwonge_and_Steven AP reports on the harsh sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, a gay couple convicted under colonial-era anti-gay laws. British human rights activist Peter Tatchell writes:

14 years for Malawi couple is “brutal”

Jailed men could die in squalid prison

Malawi reverts to the mentality of the Hastings Banda dictatorship

Only hope is for Steven and Tiwonge to appeal to the High Court

London – 20 May 2010

“This is an appalling, vindictive and brutal sentence, which tramples on Malawi’s constitution, violates personal privacy and reverses the country’s commitment to human rights.

“Steven and Tiwonge love each other and have harmed no one. Yet they get a sentence more severe than some rapists, armed robbers and killers.

“With so much hatred and violence in Malawi, it is sick that the court has jailed these two men for loving and caring for each other.

“The sentence echoes the era of dictatorship under President Hastings Banda, when personal prejudices determined law enforcement, and when individual rights were crushed and dissenters persecuted,” said London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage!.

He was commenting on the 14 year jail sentence for homosexuality, which was handed down today against Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Blantyre, Malawi.

Continue reading "Malawi gay couple sentenced to 14 years hard labor" »

May 19, 2010

Once again, slowly: being gay is not about your sex life

Andrew-Sullivan-Mug-Shot Andrew Sullivan nails it:

Drum objects to asking public figures about their sex lives. So do I. I have zero interest - less than zero, actually - in Elena Kagan's sex life or lack of it. I do have an interest in someone's public identity. And how many times can I say this before my straight friends get it? Being gay is not about your sex life. It's about a core element of your identity, one that no gay person can bypass or ignore....

This is what a gay person must go through to get to adulthood: he or she must figure out she's different at varying ages, but usually, clearly by mid-adolescence. The dating question looms, as does the marriage question. What do you do? Many gay kids pretend to be straight for a while (mercifully fewer than in the past); many come out and begin the difficult pursuit of love and intimacy and, in some states, marriage; others make a strategic decision to lie about themselves or to construct a public persona drained of any emotional or relationship content so they always avoid the question. At every stage of this evolution, the gay person is made deeply aware of his or her marginalized status as a citizen and as a human being. Few identities expose as much how the law can oppress, stigmatize and alienate.

With all due respect, this is more relevant than "thousands of other factors" in someone's life. This experience, certainly for someone of my generation and older, cannot but be formative, whether it is repressed, engaged, hidden or run from. To remain closeted requires a massive use of emotional and psychological resources to distract, dissociate, lie, euphemize, cover, appease. It requires deception every day.

This question is not about someone's sexual preferences - by which I mean, whether you like your partners tall, short, hairy, buxom, skinny, fat, whatever, and what you might like to do with them. It's about your emotional core and the integrity with which you have lived your life. It matters if a Supreme Court Justice has lived his life as a convenient careerist lie. It tells us a lot about him. And for gay people who have had to make these choices, and risked a huge amount to do so, it is somewhat offensive to be told this experience is just not that big a deal.

Really? You try it.

I don't know why this is so hard for people to get, but an awful lot of people don't get it. Self-proclaimed defenders of traditional marriage call marriage a central institution of society which it is vital to defend. Yet when gay people seek access to this vital institution, suddenly it's all about sex? Exactly zero people honestly believe any such thing.

This isn't about a disagreement, it's about a lie. If you are straight, you don't get to credit your own relationships with emotional and spiritual depth while treating it as a given that mine must be nothing but sex, sex, sex. Not without a fight. That anti-gay slander runs deep, and it won't die if we don't fight it. For our friends, such as those in the White House, to treat a question about whether a nominee is gay as beyond-the-pale offensive — well, pardon me, but screw you too. There is no way that these people do not know better. And goddammit, this is not about Elena Kagan. She just happened to be in the way when it came up. I am engaged to be married to someone who is 3,500 miles away much of the time. It is damn well not all about sex, any more than it is for any other two people who love each other and have been committed to each other for years. It is easy for people in Washington to fall into certain ways of talking about things, but this is a subject where the auto-pilot of conventional wisdom steers you very wrong.

Malcolm X would be 85 today

Malcolm1 This week I've been thinking about the 85th birthday of gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, which will be this Friday, May 21. But it just came to my attention that today would have been the 85th birthday of Malcolm X, who was killed in 1965. This outspoken man had a gift for crystallizing injustices with vivid phrases. He once said, echoing a line from Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us." To Coretta Scott King he said, "I want Dr. King to know that I didn't come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King."

The following is from a letter he wrote from Mecca to his friends in Harlem (from The Autobiography of Malcolm X);

"Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.

"I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca, I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad, I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat.

"There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.

"America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.

"You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.

"During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug - while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white...."

(Hat tip: Brandon Fitzgerald)

Frank Kameny's 85th birthday celebrations

Kameny_with_sign Gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, whose 1971 campaign for D.C. Delegate to Congress led to GLAA's founding, will be 85 years old on May 21. Celebrations to mark the occasion including the following, which we encourage you to attend.

Event 1:

Celebrate the 85th birthday of Frank Kameny, a founding father of the gay rights movement in the US, this Wednesday.

Don Patron Arts will be providing 10 Portraits of Frank Kameny to raise money to support Frank in his later years of life. DJ Shea Van Horn will be providing music as well.

If you can’t attend the event but would still like to contribute, you may make a donation here.

Wednesday, May 19
The Artist Inn Residence
1824 R Street, NW
7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Minimum donation of $20.

Event 2:

Frank Kameny's 85th Birthday Celebration

Join the Stein Club @ the DC Center as we celebrate our hero, Frank Kameny's, 85th Birthday. Featuring a special presentation by Paul Kuntzler.

Friday, May 21, 2010 (Frank's actual birthday)
6:30pm - 8:30pm
DC Center
1810 14th Street, NW

Update: Lou Chibbaro reports here.

May 18, 2010

REALTORS® Adopt Antidiscrimination Code

Naglreplogo The National Association of REALTORS®’ Board of Directors passed a recommendation at the 2010 Midyear Legislative Meetings held in Washington, DC  that amends the organizations Code of Ethics to bar sexual orientation discrimination against other REALTORS® or consumers.  The amended code reads as follows
REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or sexual orientation. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or sexual orientation.

REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or sexual orientation.

Some members expressed concerns about adding legal complexity but the NAR legal counsel defended the measure as putting the group ahead of the curve.  The Delegate Body must approve the measure at the November meeting in New Orleans.

The National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals participated in a program on Tomorrow's Leaders: Engaging the Next Generation: Equal Opportunity-Cultural Diversity Forum at the conference.  The NAR Equal Opportunity – Cultural Diversity Committee (EOC) has formed a subcommittee to explore LGBT issues which met for the first time at the DC session.

Considering the fact that support for policies prohibiting housing discrimination against LGBT people is so widespread (a majority in every state supports these policies) the National Association of REALTORS®’ really isn't that far ahead of the curve.  See the chart after the jump.

Continue reading "REALTORS® Adopt Antidiscrimination Code" »

Stein Democrats endorse Jim Graham and Harry Thomas Jr.

Jim_Graham 0527thomas

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club announces:

On Monday, May 17, 2010 in the packed Gymnasium of the Thurgood Marshall Center the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club held its first endorsement candidates forum of the 2010 election cycle for candidates for Ward 1 and Ward 5 city council. The Stein club has a long history of being a major endorsement in DC City Council races with candidates taking every available opportunity prior to the endorsement meeting to sell their candidacy to Stein Club members.

Last night's endorsement meeting was no different. The two Democratic challengers to incumbent Jim Graham, Jeff Smith and Brian Weaver both were present to make their case as was one of the challengers to incumbent Harry Thomas Jr., Mr. Kenyon McDuffie.

When it was all said and done, the Stein Club in a very decisive vote endorsed Harry Thomas Jr. with 89% of the vote and Jim Graham with 77% of the vote.

"As the largest, grassroots, LGBT, Democratic, political organization in the city, we are very excited about this endorsement and we are ready to put our boots on the ground to make sure that Harry Thomas Jr. & Jim Graham are decisively re-elected in 2010", Jeffrey Richardson, President.

Visit Harry Thomas 2010 Elect Ward 5 online

Visit Jim Graham Unity ~ Unidad Ward 1 online

Congrats to Councilmembers Graham and Thomas. GLAA will do our nonpartisan ratings (not endorsements) of primary candidates later in the summer.

Portugal becomes 8th nation to legalize same-sex marriage; inequalities remain

Portugalflag AP reports from Lisbon:

Portugal's conservative president announced Monday he is reluctantly ratifying a law allowing gay marriage, making the predominantly Catholic country the sixth in Europe to let same-sex couples wed.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said he would not veto the bill because majority liberal lawmakers would only overturn his decision. The country must focus instead on battling a crippling economic crisis that has increased unemployment and deepened poverty, he said....

He said he was setting aside his "personal convictions," though he did not elaborate and did not take reporters' questions.

The country's parliament passed the Socialist government-backed bill in January, with the support of all of Portugal's left-of-center parties, who together have a majority. Right-of-center parties opposed the measure and demanded a national referendum.

Elsewhere in Europe, gay marriage is permitted in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway. As well, five U.S. states and Washington, D.C., have legalized same-sex marriage, as have Canada and South Africa.

Cavaco Silva's announcement came three days after Pope Benedict XVI left Portugal. During his four-day visit, which attracted hundreds of thousands of people, the pontiff said same-sex marriage, and abortion, were some of the most "insidious and dangerous" threats facing the world....

Gay rights advocates have said they will continue to fight for gay couples' parental rights, including adoption, which are not included in the law.

How sweet for this to happen days after His Alleged Holiness left Fatima. The fact that adoption rights are a sticking point in many European countries contrasts with our experience here in D.C., where same-sex couples won adoption rights in a court case in 1995, 15 years before we won marriage equality.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga convicted in Malawi

Steven-monjeza-and-tiwonge-chimbalanga1

AP reports that Malawi gay couple Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were arrested December 27 after announcing their engagement, were found guilty Tuesday of unnatural acts and gross indecency in a trial that has brought international condemnation. Peter Tatchell writes from London:

Malawi gay trial verdict “unjust and cruel”

Steven Monjeza & Tiwonge Chimbalanga found guilty of homosexuality

Convicted men hope that an appeal will overturn magistrate’s decision

London – 18 May 2010

“This is an outrageous verdict. While Steven and Tiwonge freely confirmed their love for each other, there was was no credible evidence that they had committed any illegal homosexual acts,” said London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who has been supporting and advocating for the men since their arrest and detention in December last year.

He was commenting on the trial result today of two men who were prosecuted in Malawi on charges of homosexuality, Steven Monjeza (26) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20).

“The law under which they were convicted is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. It is unconstitutional. Article 20 of Malawi’s constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination. The law in Malawi is not supposed to discriminate,” added Mr Tatchell.

“Malawi's anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws.

“I expect both men will now appeal against the verdict and against any sentence that is handed down. Steven and Tiwonge’s best hope is that a higher court will overturn this unjust, cruel verdict.

Continue reading "Monjeza and Chimbalanga convicted in Malawi" »

May 17, 2010

With Dale Peterson for Alabama Agriculture Commission, who needs the movies?

This is both hilarious and scary.

Capehart: Laura Bush, 'where were you when we needed you?'

Jonathan Capehart writes at WaPo about Laura Bush's endorsement of same-sex marriage last Tuesday on "Larry King Live":

How about that? Another high-powered Republican coming out for marriage equality. Cindy and Meghan McCain and former vice president Dick Cheney have long been members of this club. But when I asked my friend Charles Francis what he thought about this revelation, he put my enthusiasm in check.

"As a longtime family friend, who respects Laura greatly," Francis told me, "I can only say, 'Where were you when we needed you?'"

"For me and other gay friends and original gay and lesbian supporters who put it out there for President Bush, this comment comes painfully late," Francis said. "The actual legacy, and legacy is what we are talking about, is eight years of unremitting policy hostility for any gay issue mixed with personal warmth, which made this so difficult. This culminated in a willingness to write us into the Constitution itself. Laura Bush never helped us, and we tried many times."

Allies in the struggle for equal rights are always welcome. But heroes are made when they speak up and take a stand from a position of power. Francis and other gays and lesbians were looking for heroes during the eight years of the Bush administration. How sad that Mrs. Bush averted her gaze until now.

I could not agree more. The radicalism of President Bush's call to amend the Constitution against gay families needed repudiation back in 2004.

D.C. heading to marriage record

Hands-gibson-article WaPo reports:

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the District for only about two months, but the city is on track to set a record for marriages this year, WTOP reports.

The D.C. Superior Court has issued more than 2,000 marriage licenses.

"To put that in perspective," Judge William Jackson says, "all of last year was about 3,000."

In the first three months of 2010, the court processed 376 applications. Since March 3 -- when same-sex marriage became legal in the District -- the marriage license office has received 2,082 applications.

Based on the early numbers, the District is on target to issue four times as many marriage licenses this year as it did in 2009.

After working so hard for this win, nothing is more gratifying than to see so many people taking advantage of it. Hooray for us.

Colby King: Elena Kagan's unhelpful supporters

Colbert_i_king Our friend Colby King writes:

Elena Kagan's supporters don't do her or gay Americans any favors by publicly expressing their views on her sexual orientation. Whether or not a future justice is a heterosexual or homosexual is irrelevant to questions about fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. That there are some bigoted Americans who would make sexual orientation an issue is no reason to grant them any legitimacy, which occurs when their perverse and offensive interests are addressed. The proper response is to treat the question of sexual orientation as the non-issue that it is and place the burden on the bigots to make their case in the public square… if they dare.

What's worse, by finding it necessary to declare that Kagan is not a lesbian, her supporters, wittingly or unwittingly, have lent credence to the specious argument that homosexuality carries with it a stigma, that it is a perversion and, thus, a disqualification.

In their zeal to protect the Kagan's nomination, her defenders have given standing to those who would discriminate against gays, sanctioned similar inquiries into the sexual orientation of future judges, and further lowered the level of debate on qualifications necessary to serve on the highest court in the land.

Yes. The White House in particular handled the gay rumors very badly. What could they have been thinking?

May 16, 2010

George Rekers DC Connection

Rainbow_Neckerchief Frank Rich had an Op-Ed in the New York Times this week about the culture wars titled A Heaven-Sent Rent Boy.  In it he addresses the situation of George Rekers and ties it to the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. He closes the article with the following
These dying gasps of our culture wars, like Rekers’s farcical pratfall, might be funnier if millions of gay Americans and their families were not still denied their full civil rights.

Still, Rekers situation is pretty funny.

The Rich piece includes a reminder that George Rekers has a DC connection through the Dale v. BSA case that ended up before the Supreme Court.  Rekers was an expert witness before the Human Right Commission. His testimony is summarized as follows (emphasis added)

The Boy Scouts assert through the testimony of their expert, Dr. Rekers, that homosexuals are excluded from Scouting because they are inappropriate role models. He believes that having an openly gay Scout Leader in a Troop would legitimize the value of homosexual behavior and convey a moral value that would subsequently legitimize this form of sexual behavior. Dr. Rekers testified that youth members of the BSA are in a developmental stage where their attitudes, behaviors (including sexual behaviors) values, self concepts and identity are particularly susceptible to influence. Dr. Rekers testified that his knowledge in this area is based on personal experience as a father of five children, from his attendance at Troop meetings, his observation of scout activities in two troops, speaking to parents, scoutmasters and older and younger scouts. He also testified that the research indicates that children identify with older people and incorporate their values by observation and by imitation of what older people do. The Commission finds this testimony problematic, in part, because Dr. Rekers failed to identify what research he relied upon and who conducted the studies. Dr. Rekers also testified that moral values affect behavior in children and adolescents. He referred to research that demonstrates that moral values regarding sexual conduct have a very strong influence on both children and adolescents. Dr. Rekers further testified that young scouts learn and are susceptible to influence in a variety of ways and if they identify with the adult scout leader, they can absorb attitudes, behaviors, values and other ideas. Again the Commission notes that Dr. Rekers did not identify the research and who conducted the studies.
It seems that people have been on to Dr. Rekers for a long time.  Of course, the value the Boy Scouts should be teaching are of tolerance.  Instead they are a nest of bigotry for those who have a different sexual orientation or who are athiest.  There is also this gem in the footnotes.
Both Dr. Rekers and Savin-Williams assert that parents can recognize as early as six months sex-atypical behavior that has a very strong relationship to sexual orientation.
This begs the question of what the behavior is.  Is it the color of their poop or their attitudes toward it?  The way they breast feed?  Do male babies like to breast feed too much or do they reject women at that early age?  And is it just the opposite for Lesbians?  Dr. Rekers should make plain what the bahavior is that distinguish gay babie.  And citations please!

May 15, 2010

"The Archdiocese does not prohibit children of same sex parents from attending Catholic schools"

Hands-gibson-article David Gibson at Politics Daily reports an encouraging twist in the story of an 8-year-old boy who was barred from a parochial school in Hingham, Massachusetts because his parents are lesbians:

One of the mothers, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of concerns about the effect of publicity on her son, said she and her partner had planned to send the boy to third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in the fall.

But she said that in a conference call with the priest, Father James Rafferty, and the school principal, Cynthia Duggan, Rafferty told her that her relationship was "was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church." Duggan told her teachers would be in an awkward position by having to answer student questions about the boy's two mommies....

The decision by Rafferty and Duggan also seemed to take the Archdiocese of Boston by surprise. A spokesman for Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and other church officials said there is no policy barring the children of gay parents from Catholic schools.

"The Archdiocese does not prohibit children of same sex parents from attending Catholic schools," Mary Grassa O'Neill, secretary for education and superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said in a statement on Thursday. "We will work in the coming weeks to develop a policy to eliminate any misunderstandings in the future,"

It's nice to see some dissent within the Church to such exclusionary policies. It is hard to imagine where in the Gospel the schoolmasters could find justification for their intolerance.

A Catholic's struggle with the sins of his church

Popecover In the May 27 issue of The New Republic, Garry Wills examines the "earthquake of crumbling credibility" that the rulers of the Catholic Church have brought on themselves. An excerpt:

Since the papacy has been frozen in a defensive crouch, defying historical fact and free inquiry, it has been opposed to anything that might diminish the power of the Church to define reality. The authority of the bishop, of the priest, of the papacy, was more important than the Gospel. It was considered the only power that could say what the Gospel is or demands. Thus, the covering-up of sacerdotal sins and errors was a given in the Church. The infantilism of priests, the combined sexual inexperience and prurience resulting from celibacy, the belief that a celibate male is more attuned to spiritual reality than a married man—all this created a framework where sins, when they occurred, had to be denied, the victims had to be blamed, the solution to the problem was simply one of praying harder....

Even now, as Church leaders belatedly try to repent and repair things, the mythical underpinnings of the priestly system continue to be taught — that only celibates can be priests (the apostles were married, all but Paul), that refusal to marry gives a man a superior caringness, that it makes him unworldly and concerned with other souls. What real change can occur when such myths are clung to with a blind ferocity? ...

The reaction of the hierarchy has been to dig itself even deeper into the past—to blame the Church’s troubles on such old evils as secularism, relativism, positivism, pluralism, and a “permissive” culture. The Second Vatican Council is blamed as well, and the Popes have tried to blunt or reverse its changes. Pope Benedict wants to go back to the Latin mass, with the priest turned from the people....

All those who honor the name of Jesus are engaged in a joint search for the Jesus who will not be found in marble halls or wearing imperial costumes. He is forever on the run. He is the one who said, “Whatever you did to any of my brothers, even the lowliest [elackistoi], you did to me” (Matthew 25:41). That means that the priests abusing the vulnerable young were doing that to Jesus, raping Jesus. Any clerical functionary who shows more sympathy for the predator priests than for their victims instantly disqualifies himself as a follower of Jesus. The cardinals said they must care for their own, going to jail if necessary to protect a priest. We say the same thing, but the “our own” we care for are the victimized, the poor, the violated. They are Jesus.

The most amazing, and the saddest, thing about the current Vatican leadership is that they can dispute any of this. The degree of arrogance and corruption required to maintain their unyielding position is staggering. Yet the true Church, the community of believers, continues to keep the faith as embodied in people like Wills and my cousin, a nun who has fought for the past two decades for justice for the victims of priestly sexual abuse. If the Church in the West has a vibrant future, it is in their hands.