My latest column is now up at Metro Weekly. It is subtitled, "Amid war and plague, right-wing Americans export religious intolerance." Here's an excerpt:
In Entebbe on August 9, more than one hundred LGBT Ugandans celebrated the first Pride Uganda since the Constitutional Court overturned the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) for being passed without a quorum. Entebbe is on Lake Victoria, and the paradise suggested by some of the photos would not make you think the revelers risked mob violence, unless you noticed the masks some wore.
A British name for an African lake is a relic of the same colonial legacy that keeps homosexuality illegal despite AHA being tossed out. African leaders are strangely selective in their outrage over Western influences. They embrace foreign laws, religions, and aid while treating sexual minorities who have always lived among them like hostile aliens. American evangelicals like Scott Lively incited the persecution with the slander that gays recruit and sexually abuse children. This pious vulture denies any responsibility for the consequences, including LGBT Ugandans being hunted like animals.
Genie, you're free. pic.twitter.com/WjA9QuuldD— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 12, 2014
The Motion Picture Academy posted the above tweet yesterday after the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams at age 63. Below is a performance Williams gave in England after Barack Obama's first presidential election victory. May he rest in peace.
Intead of dying politely? RT @EQMatters: Rush Limbaugh: The left will politicize Ebola, just like they politicized AIDS to undermine Reagan— Richard Rosendall (@RickRosendall) August 4, 2014
I was replying to this:
Rush Limbaugh: The left will "politicize" ebola, just like it did with AIDS! [AUDIO] http://t.co/NLsYLn3k71— Salon.com (@Salon) August 4, 2014
WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning has been approved to begin receiving hormone replacement therapy while serving her 35-year prison sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Associated Press reports.
This is the right decision. Denial of healthcare is not an appropriate form of punishment. All prisoners are entitled to proper healthcare, and transgender prisoners are no exception.
There have been reports that more than 100 of those aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 were on their way to the World AIDS Conference in Melbourne. If so (and there have been conflicting reports), the crime of the downing of the commercial jetliner might also be devastating for AIDS research.
One of the passengers was eminent AIDS researcher Dr. Joep Lange, executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and former president of the International AIDS Society. Dr. Lange once said, "If we can get a cold can of Coke to any part of Africa, we can certainly deliver AIDS treatment." That remains true.
The Guardian reports that a team of OSCE inspectors was barred from the crash site by Russian-backed rebels:
The commander of the rebel unit, a man called Ilya who is known as Commander Glum, expressed annoyance as the OSCE team stood its ground, keen to access the scenes of carnage. 'OSCE came here without negotiating,' he shouted, as they prepared to leave...We didn’t agree to meet the OSCE here, go away,' he added, firing a warning shot. The five-strong convoy departed rapidly.
Above, Jonathan Capehart (subbing for Steve Kornacki) discusses the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling with Gabriela Domenzain, Justin Snow and Chris Geidner. Below, Evan Wolfson joins the discussion.
Tony Merevick at BuzzFeed reports:
The World Health Organization announced Friday that for the first time, it “strongly recommends” that men who have sex with men should consider antiretroviral drugs along with the use of condoms as an additional method of preventing HIV infection.
The health agency said that new prevention options such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — currently in the form of a daily pill containing two drugs — are needed alongside condom use to reduce HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men, a key population in which infection rates remain high.
My latest column is now online at Metro Weekly, arguing that faith-based advocacy should not be disguised as licensed healthcare. Here's an excerpt:
Encountering the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg in the D.C. Council Chambers on June 27 took me back five years to our battles over the District's marriage equality bill. This time it was a hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Sprigg was furious at the attempt to deny choice to troubled teens seeking to overcome their gay desires.
One should always be skeptical toward right-wing busybodies who use "choice" as a rallying cry, and so it is in this case. Gay and lesbian teens whose ears are filled with cries of abomination know the sound of rejection. If choice is a concern, shouldn't they be given the choice of a supportive environment? And if professional therapy is the way to help, shouldn't we mention that homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973?
The anti-gay groups represented at the hearing, including FRC, PFOX, and the International Healing Foundation, are frozen in amber on homosexuality, which they deem forever sick, sinful, and illicit. With the pathologizing and criminalizing of gayness having ended in America, and with many faiths affirming LGBT lives, the dwindling band of demonizers resorts increasingly to shrillness and deception at home and proselytizing overseas.
The homophobes conceal their faith-based motivation behind a veil of pseudoscience. The trouble is, they dictate nature rather than observing it.
The Washington Blade and Metro Weekly report on the June 27 hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. My caption for the above photo, in which notorious reparative therapist Christopher Doyle is testifying, is me (over his shoulder) saying, "Who are these creepy guys?" and Alison Gill of HRC (at left) saying, "I thought they were your friends."
John Oliver gave an excellent take on the Hobby Lobby ruling the day before it was issued.
The fact that court observers saw this one coming is no comfort. Building on the corporations-are-people ruling in Citizens United, SCOTUS on Monday effectively ruled that a closely held corporation has more rights of personhood than a woman does. The notion that a company's religious views (what an absurd phrase) trump the religious rights of its employees is not only topsy-turvy, it threatens to turn every shop into a law unto itself.
Here is an excerpt of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's scathing dissent:
Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. … The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.
Our friend Jonathan Rauch has an interesting take on Hobby Lobby's religious liberty claims:
Religious folks are pushing the envelope really far when they say it’s a major intrusion on their religious conscience to have to buy an insurance policy that covers choices that other people make. To me that’s kind of picking a fight. And I am very sympathetic to religious liberty claims.
I agree with the dissenting opinions in the Hobby Lobby ruling, which say, “If you find your religion being burdened by something so indirect then when does it end?” If religious folks try to withdraw too much from practices of ordinary society—if they push too hard for the right not to participate—it will backfire. It sends a bad message about their inclusivity and their willingness to engage with society.
I spent 5 hours on Friday in a D.C. Council hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors (so you wouldn't have to). One highlight was Peter Sprigg of FRC expressing his fury over the bill. Special thanks to Bishop Rainey Cheeks and Rev. Graylan Hagler for their testimony, to Saul Cruz for representing GLAA, and to Alison Gill of HRC for coordinating the coalition effort. Frank Kameny would be rolling in his grave (if he had one) over the repeated invocations of NARTH and other quacks by our opponents. But we have the science, the DC Council, and 2 federal courts on our side.
Lots of groups got involved, including the DC Center, Wanda Alston Foundation, SMYAL, SPLC, The Trevor Project, American Academy of Pediatrics, PFLAG, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, plus survivors of reparative therapy. It was a fine demonstration of a broad and strong coalition effort. Thanks to all of them. But oh, how happy I was when Graylan Hagler's voice boomed from the witness table. It made up for so much nonsense and lies I had been listening to from our opponents.
Oh, and though HIV Testing Day and other matters kept Metro Teen AIDS from attending, they are submitting written testimony. Speaking of which, anyone is free to weigh in. From the hearing notice: "For those unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Rayna Smith at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 115, Washington, D.C., 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014."
In the next few days I will post links to various groups' testimony over at GLAA's main website.
Matthew Cella at The Washington Times reports on a matter that we have been following for a few years:
A D.C. jury found that a nonprofit group and its director misappropriated more than $300,000 from the city’s HIV/AIDS program for renovations on a proposed job-training center that instead was used to open a strip club.
The jury found damages of $329,653 against the nonprofit Miracle Hands Inc. and its director, reformed gangster Cornell Jones, after a four-day trial in D.C. Superior Court.
GLAA wrote about this in our 2012 policy brief, which provides some context:
The contrast between Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.'s vehement opposition to gay strip clubs in 2007 and his support for straight-oriented strip clubs in 2011 suggests a gaping double standard that he has not credibly explained. [Note: As we go to press, Councilmember Thomas appears set to resign as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. We are not deleting this material because the issue continues to stir debate.] WAMU reported that Thomas "has supported the applications of the clubs and says these upscale strip clubs can be good corporate neighbors." Thomas denied being influenced by campaign donations, despite a Washington Times report (in June 2011) that "Keith Forney, a co-owner of the Stadium Club whose companies have received more than $90 million in D.C. construction funds since 2000, made separate payments to Team Thomas in 2008 and 2009 totaling $6,000." On top of this, former crack cocaine kingpin Cornell Jones is accused of diverting more than $300,000 in District HIV/AIDS funds to renovate the club. The city owes us a single standard that neither depends on campaign cash nor involves misuse of public funds.
At last, some justice in the case. As the Times story quotes D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, the verdict “should serve as a warning to all those who would attempt to misuse District grant funds.”
On Friday, June 27 at noon in the D.C. Council chamber, GLAA and others will testify on Bill 20-501, to prohibit so-called conversion therapy for minors. The above video from National Center for Lesbian Rights, with whom GLAA is in coalition, is from their #BornPerfect campaign against this dangerous and discredited junk medicine.
Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch reported from Friday's "Road to Majority" summit. In this clip, Gary Bauer offers an astonishing catalog of lies about our 44th president, from he destroyed America's military to he declared war on the Little Sisters of the Poor. One wonders how many wars the (in my view) more-than-sufficiently hawkish Obama would have to start in order to avoid the former charge. As to the latter charge, it appears to be based on the nuns having to fill out a form concerning their religious exemption to the contraception mandate in ACA, because they don't just want to avoid providing such converge to their employees--they want to prevent their employees from getting it from anyone.
In short: as usual with the radical religious right, if they are prevented from imposing their intolerant doctrines on others, they claim their own freedom has been infringed. And the commandment against bearing false witness is once again trampled by the ones most loudly announcing their righteousness. As the saying goes, God help us.
This guy says he doesn't want to be misunderstood as being anti-gay. He just wants to preserve dangerous quackery as an option.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who sets off a lot of people's gaydar, compares homosexuality to alcoholism. Jonathan Capehart comments.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman joins with Michelle Obama and a few of his teammates to make a video as part of her Let's Move! campaign to promote healthy cooking, and spoofs himself in the process.
Aaron Hicklin at out.com reports on Andrew Sullivan's defense of the PrEP drug Truvada against the attacks by Larry Kramer:
On his popular website, The Dish, Sullivan challenged Kramer to think through the logic of his position, adding that had Truvada been availabe at the height of the AIDS pandemic in New York, no-one would have turned it down. "I think of how it might have saved me," he writes. "I was using condoms after all, and following the rules of safe sex. But I screwed up somewhere along the way, and Truvada would have been a safety net. Why would anyone not want to add that layer of security?" He adds that the decline in condom use is not about gay men, but about men in general. "You need not ascribe any pathology to the reluctance to wear a condom when the consequence is much less dire than it once was," he wrote. "You simply have to be a dude with a dick."
NYT talks to Larry Kramer on the occasion of the TV version of his landmark play The Normal Heart. Congrats to him.
However. "We have no power in Washington, or anywhere else," says Kramer, who doesn't do nuance. In the week of Frank Kameny's 89th birthday, I say what he once said to Kramer in Lambda Rising bookstore: Larry, you are wrong.
That we haven't won everything doesn't mean we won nothing. Kramer has done much to admire; but his boorishness and disrespect are gratuitous and increasingly ridiculous.
(Photo of Larry Kramer by David Shankbone)
The latest from Right Wing Watch. Like you're surprised?
Joe Jervis writes:
Beautiful, the Broadway musical that tells Carole King's life story through her songs, has been running for months to record crowds and rave reviews. King had famously declined to see the show, telling Playbill in December after walking out of a reading, "I can't watch my life played out before me." She changed her mind on Thursday, choosing to attend the show during the week that Broadway casts issue curtain call pleas for donations to Equity Fights AIDS.
Lovely. Especially nice for those of us who were in our teens during her peak years.
Charles Gaba at ACAsignups.net provides an informed response to anti-healthcare trolls who, being committed to declaring the Affordable Care Act an utter failure no matter what, have taken to saying, "But how many of them have PAID???" By this they are suggesting to dispute the figure of 7 million enrollees is inflated. Click on the above link to Gaba's blog entry for a thorough refutation of that right-wing talking point.
(Hat tip: Markos Moulitsas on Mark Thompson's "Make It Plain" show on Sirius/XM Radio, yesterday evening.)
The senator's wacky dad has an odd way of showing his love for gay people.
Setting aside the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice (just ask homophobes when they chose to be straight), the notion that something chosen cannot be a civil right is awfully strange coming from people who make a lot of noise about their chosen religion.
News coming out of the White House today shows that a technique supported by the National Institute of Health using genetic modification of cells has proven a safe way to treat and control HIV without drugs.
Our friend Ernest Hopkins comments:
One of several very exciting new studies demonstrating the importance of the investment in basic research and HIV specific research. The NIH is an amazing institution and the breakthroughs in scientific understanding coming from hard, deliberate work over a number of years is deeply gratifying.
Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday mentioned the D.C. Council's action to decriminalize mj possession. (He also mentioned the bill last fall.) Oh, what we have to do to get attention!
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) issued the following statement:
In a country where many states are permitting medical marijuana, or have decriminalized or legalized marijuana, I do not expect Members of Congress to interfere with D.C.’s local right to pass its own law on marijuana decriminalization. If Members try to interfere, however, I will stoutly defend D.C.’s right to pass such legislation, just as 17 states have already done.
From Box Turtle Bulletin:
Mattachine Society of Washington DC Declares Homosexuality Not A Mental Illness: 1965. We often think of Stonewall and 1969 as marking the of the more assertive gay rights movement, shoving aside the prior generation’s timidity and accommodation. But as I’ve written before, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you really wanted to point to a pivotal year which truly marked the beginning of the beginning of a self-confident and assertive stance on gay rights, that year would be 1965, not 1969. That year, began with a San Francisco police raid on a New Years’ Day party (see Jan 1). The community’s reaction resulted in the appointment of the first ever police liaison to the gay community and forever changed that city’s politics. Then later that month, The Washington Post, published a five part series which was the first relatively judgment-free, balanced, mostly accurate and sympathetic portrayal of gay people in a major newspaper (see Jan 31).
On March 4, 1965 marked another momentous occasion when Frank Kameny shepherded this resolution through the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.:
“The Mattachine Society of Washington takes the position that in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense, but is merely a preference, orientation, or propensity on par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality.”
LGBT activists in D.C. won a major victory Thursday morning in the area of transgender health care. From Mayor Gray's office:
Today, the District of Columbia advanced the rights of the city’s transgender community by prohibiting discrimination in health insurance based on gender identity and expression. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) is issuing a bulletin to District health insurance companies addressing the application of anti-discrimination provisions in the insurance code, including recognizing gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder, as a recognized medical condition....
This action follows DISB’s March 15, 2013 bulletin notifying health insurers to remove language that discriminated on the basis of gender identity and expression from their policies and permit those with gender dysphoria to obtain medically necessary benefits. Today’s action goes one step further in protecting this community’s health insurance rights by affirming that gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition and thereby treatment, including gender reassignment surgeries, is a covered benefit....
Moreover, individuals with gender dysphoria are entitled to receive any medically necessary benefits and services under individual and group health insurance policies covering medical and hospital expenses. In determining the medical necessity of services and benefits provided to individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria, insurance providers must refer to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care, known as WPATH, the recognized standard of medical care for transgender individuals requiring treatment for gender dysphoria. These benefits are not newly mandated, but rather clarify District law to assure that individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria are afforded the same benefits under health insurance policies as individuals seeking medically necessary treatment for non-gender identity or expression-related conditions.
With this executive action, a major unfinished piece of the LGBT equality agenda in D.C. is won. Thanks to all who helped make this possible, including our fellow advocates (especially the fabulous Andy Bowen) and Vince Gray for his leadership. There is no mayor or governor in America with a stronger record on behalf of transgender citizens. Today he earned his championship point all over again.
My latest column surveys last week's events, from the Sochi Olympics to anti-gay persecution in Nigeria and Uganda, to America's anti-gay right. It was enough to make a person's head spin.
Back slowly away.
(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)
Dale Carpenter at the Volokh Conspiracy discusses yesterday's decision by the Ninth Circuit standing by its decision of last year rejecting the First Amendment defense of conversion therapy on minors.
I note that Carpenter and Eugene Volokh are among the libertarian supporters of marriage equality who have submitted amicus briefs defending the Alliance Defending Freedom in its defense of anti-gay photographers, florists, and others in their claim of a religious right to discriminate. Their attempt to thread the needle is seriously off-track, in my view, as its logic would unravel the Civil Rights Act. But Dale does see a distinction between what he sees as religious freedom in the wedding-related businesses case and the medical care in this one.
This is of local interest in D.C. because we and our allies are attempting to pass Bill 20-501, the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act of 2013.
Mike Huckabee caused quite a furor with his reality-challenged rant against birth control the other day:
If the Democrats want to insult women by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take this discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.
My favorite comment was by Lizz Winstead:
Where on the doll did Uncle Sugar touch you?— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) January 24, 2014
The Raw Story reports. After five years of racial dog whistles against Obama, they persist in saying no, the racial appeals are all coming from the President.
Another example of how much of our current politics is not about honest disagreement, but about reflexive opposition and lies. GOP opposition to the Affordable Care Act cannot be policy-based, because it was conceived by the Heritage Foundation and pioneered by Obama's 2012 Republican opponent. Democrats wanted a more liberal program, and settled for the current program as a compromise. Republicans have done all they can to sabotage their own plan while brazenly blaming any problems on Obama. They do the same with the economy. They are morally treasonous.
First lady Michelle Obama makes a video on healthy eating with members of the Miami Heat. If this doesn't make you smile, check yourself for a pulse. This is just delightful.
Friday, January 3, 2014
Contact: Rick Rosendall
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., today launches its 2014 Election Project and releases its questionnaires for Mayoral and D.C. Council candidates plus its LGBT policy brief, "Building on Victory."
GLAA President Rick Rosendall stated, "GLAA gathered input from a wide range of local LGBT advocates including the DC Center, DC Trans Coalition (DCTC), Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) and others. The result is 'Building on Victory,' the most comprehensive single document advancing LGBT issues in D.C."
On January 3, 2014, GLAA will email its questionnaires and policy brief to candidates in the April 1 D.C. primary election. The deadline for receipt of candidate responses is February 6, after which GLAA will assign ratings to the primary candidates (on a scale of -10 to +10) based on their questionnaire responses and their records on LGBT issues. GLAA does not endorse candidates in partisan elections.