Saturday, November 21, 2009

“When someone asks me, “are gay rights civil rights?” my answer is always, “Of course, they are.”

--Julian Bond, civil rights activist, politician, and former President of the NAACP

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another reason why the hate crime bill was necessary

Thank you to for bringing this piece to my attention.

For laughs...

Earlier this week I posted a real video about "therapy" to "wash away the gay." Here's another, although this one isn't for real. At least I don't think it is. You never know.

 "What do you mean you don't believe in homosexuality?  It's not like the Easter Bunny.  Your belief isn't necessary."

---Comedienne Lea DeLaria

The next few days

Greetings, everyone!  I'm traveling the next few days to do a reading at Giovanni's Room, a bookstore in Philadelphia and most likely the oldest LGBT bookstore in the world. I'm one of many LGBT writers who will read from our work  to raise money for the book store as well as for the Lambda Literary Foundation, a group that is a life line for LGBT writers.  I'm going to read some of my collection of stories, if you were with me everything would be all right, as well as some pieces from the memoir scheduled for publication in October, 2010.

I'll still be posting now and then, just not quite as much. (At least that's my plan. Who knows?  I may be posting ten times a day.)  I'll be back in full force on Monday.  Great weekend to all!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another vote on same-sex relationships: Homecoming at University of Northern Texas

A friend from Texas recently emailed me this story from the Dallas Morning News about a possible change in the rules regarding the Homecoming court.  While it might be easy to ignore this news story, that would be a mistake.  Changes in people's thinking happens gradually.  Remember when the New York Times decided to publish commitment ceremonies of same-sex couples?  Soon many newspapers across the country were doing the same thing.  

Voting on allowing same-sex Homecoming court begins at UNT

12:32 PM CST on Tuesday, November 17, 2009
By JAIMIE SIEGLE / The Dallas Morning News Voting began Monday at the University of North Texas to decide whether same-sex couples should be allowed to run for Homecoming court.
Polls are open until 5 p.m. on Friday. If the vote passes, UNT will be one of the first universities to allow the crowning of two Homecoming kings sans a queen, or vice versa.

The Student Government Association’s bylaws at the university have stipulated that Homecoming couples must consist of a male and female, but after several weeks of protests and arguments the government voted 22-1 on Oct. 21 for a referendum to let the student body make the final decision.
Staff writers of the school’s daily newspaper North Texas Daily said in an editorial that voting in favor of same-sex Homecoming couples would “support the advancement of equal rights for all,” while voting against the referendum will “inevitably send a message of adherence to social norms and traditions.”

To ensure fairness, students may vote through the government’s Web site,, only once by logging in using their university ID number. Unlike some universities including Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the Denton-based university decides on its annual royalty by couple instead of individually.

Ryan Nguyen and Andi Minatrea were crowned this year’s Homecoming king and queen on Oct. 17, taking 43 percent of the student body vote. If the legislation passes, the change will not be effective until Homecoming 2010.

Across town, SMU students have been vying for Student Senate to introduce a senator that would represent the gay, lesbian and transgender community. The senate currently includes senators that represent students’ degree programs as well as their ethnic backgrounds. No progress has been made so far on the proposal.

Some momentum builds in New York

New York's top court today ruled that if a gay couple is legally married in another state, then  that couple is entitled to some government benefits in New York.

The Alliance Defense Fund -- A Christian legal group -- had argued that gay marriage was comparable to incest and polygamy.  The court reject the claim.  The court did not go so far as to declare same-sex marriages the state must recognize same-sex marriages completely, but this ruling on benefits should put pressure on the state legislature to vote on a marriage bill this year.  In fact, the courts encouraged the legislature to clarify the issue.

According to Associated Press, the group challenging the benefits for gay couples called same sex unions  "counterfeit marriages" and accused state and local officials of putting "their political agendas ahead of the law."

Gay marriage supporters were encouraged by the ruling, saying that it would build momentum for a marriage vote in the legislature.

Good news.  But does anyone else think this right-wing obsession with incest and polygamy is just getting a little too weird?

“The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision.”

--Comedienne Lynn Lavner

US History Test, circa 2050

Having taught for many years, I seem to see everything in terms of projects and tests.  So I decided to imagine a US History test students might take in the future, let's say 2050.

1. A number of phrases used in the first part of the century are now obsolete.  Try to define the following words or phrases, referring to the years when they were used and under what circumstances:  (a.) "same-sex marriage" (b) "don't ask, don't tell"(c) "defense of marriage" (d) "civil unions" (e) "domestic partnerships"

2. We all know that President Lyndon Johnson was instrumental in advancing civil rights for African Americans.  Which President signed the bill that allowed gay couples to marry?  What has been her legacy?

3. Study the attached ballot questions labeled "Proposition 8" from California and "Question 1" from Maine.  Can you think of other periods in history when Americans were denied civil rights?  How were these denials similar to and different from the passage of these two referenda?

4. Explain the role of the following presidents in the Gay Civil Rights Movement.  How did they contribute/not contribute to the movement, especially regarding the acquisition of marriage rights?  (a) Bill Clinton (b) George Bush (c) Barak Obama (d) Sonya Jimenez (e) Robert Chan

5. Who was the first gay Secretary of State? The senators from which seven states opposed his nomination?

6. Although it is hard to believe, some politicians claimed that granting marriage rights to all would lead to people wanting to marry their pets.  Explain why the court refused to hear Snoopy vs. the State of Texas. Please cite the anti-equality forces who brought the case to court hoping to prove a point.

7.  As we have discussed, religion played a major role in the debate over marriage.  Indicate whether or not the following religious groups opposed or denied equality for gays and lesbians: (a) Roman Catholic Church (b) Unitarian Universalist Society (c) Episcopal Church (d) Evangelical Christians

8. Which state was the first to grant marriage rights?  Who was the governor of that state who played such an important role in protecting these rights?

9. Briefly discuss the demise of the Republican Party and the role its opposition to civil rights played in its downfall.

10. Who was the first nominee of a major political party to embrace equal marriage rights?  What was her margin of victory?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is heterosexual marriage illegal in Texas?

This is a summary of a story from

When the Texas State Legislature overwhelming passed and the voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that not only outlawed same-sex marriage but also civil unions and domestic partnerships, they might have inadvertently banned marriage for ALL, not just LGBT folks.  The reason?  A sentence in  the bill that reads, "This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

The Democratic candidate for Atty General in Texas, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years, says the wording effectively "eliminates marriage in Texas," including common-law marriages.

Not sure where this will lead, but wouldn't it ironic if in their haste to strip LGBT people from any partnership rights whatsoever that heterosexual marriage will now be up for a vote in Texas to remedy the error in wording?

And to think we could have been saved from being gay but just didn't know it...

In honor of the 18 Annual NARTH Convention to be held this week (National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality), this video is not to be missed. And yes, they are still having conventions about how to pray away the gay. And no, this video is not a joke. It was on "Paula Zahn Now." Would love to hear mom's side of the story.

"If you are a man in life and you haven't gone to a gay bar, you haven't really danced."

-- openly straight singer John Mayer

A funny piece from "The Cobert Report" about the governor from Rhode Island

The Colbert Report
Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Skeletons in the Closet

Colbert Report Full Episodes
Political Humor
U.S. Speedskating

Good news from Washington, DC

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics has ruled that if the same-sex marriage bill becomes law, that it will not be put up to a popular vote for repeal.  So if the bill passes -- and chances are good, despite the Catholic Church's threat to withdraw its social services from the city if it does -- there can be no repeat of California or Maine.  That's good news.  And while we're on the topic of the services offered by the church, which includes helping about 1/3 of DC's homeless, this threat is exactly why the notion of church/government partnerships is a bad one.  No religious organization should have the power to use a community's poor as pawns in a church/state power struggle.

Here's the complete release from The Board of Elections and Ethics, which refused the "Marriage Initiative of 2009," a ballot question that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics today released a memorandum opinion on the “Marriage Initiative of 2009”, which would establish that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.” A public hearing on the proposed initiative was held on October 26, 2009.

Under current law, the District recognizes as valid same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The Board concludes that that Marriage Initiative of 2009 would, if passed, strip same-sex couples who have entered into such marriages of rights afforded to them by that recognition.  Accordingly, the Board orders in its memorandum that the Initiative be received but not accepted under D.C. Code section 1-1001.16(b)(2), which prohibits the Board from accepting an initiative that authorizes discrimination prohibited under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.

“We have considered all of the testimony presented to the Board and understand the desire to place this question on the ballot,” said Board Chairman Errol R. Arthur. “However, the laws of the District of Columbia preclude us from allowing this initiative to move forward.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two pieces of news reports that Oklahoma State Sen. Steve Russell plans to introduce a bill that would exempt Oklahoma from adhering to the recently passed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. According to the Oklahoma Daily, Russell said, "The federal government should not be creating a special class of people, and that is just what they did when they passed and signed this bill." 

Great quote.  I wonder if he would say the same thing about anti-gay marriage statutes on the books in 31 of our states that created two classes of citizens?


Tonight Rachel Maddow reported on a new anti-Obama slogan with a biblical twist: Pray for President Obama, Psalm 108:9.  And what does that psalm say? "May his days be few, may another take over his position.  May his children be orphans and his wife a widow."

I don't know about any of you, but I find this slogan -- now on bumper stickers, tee shirts, etc -- absolutely petrifying.  Why aren't the religious leaders in the country loudly denouncing this disturbing and threatening language?  How can this be seen as a joke?  And how does this language differ from religious extremists in other countries that supposedly so threaten us that we are actually at war with them?

This is extremely frightening and serious.

Updates: Murder in Puerto Rico and the Houston Mayoral Race

 Murder in Puerto Rico:  Following up on yesterday's story about the possible hate crime in Puerto Rico, a number of blogs reported today that a 28-year old suspect was taken into custody.  The Justice Department now says that it is "monitoring the situation," although some LGBT leaders are demanding more than that.  They want the Justice Department to be actively involved with the investigation.  There will be a vigil tonight in San Juan and in New York City.

The Houston Mayoral Election:  Over the weekend I wrote about the anti-gay campaign against Annise Parker, a lesbian running for Mayor of Houston.  Since then, The Houston Chronicle has published an editorial condemning these tactics.  It reads:

 A band of socially conservative activists and ministers has injected intolerance into Houston's mayoral election. As reported Saturday by the Chronicle's Bradley Olson, the group plans to discourage voters from supporting City Controller Annise Parker in the Dec. 12 runoff because she is a lesbian, and because they're worried about a “gay takeover” of City Hall.
Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, told Olson, “The bottom line is that we didn't pick the battle, she did when she made her agenda and sexual preference a central part of her campaign.”

That's a lie.

While Parker has never made a secret of her sexuality, the campaign debate and agenda to date have been wholly defined by the issues facing the city and the comparative qualifications and experience of the candidates.

Parker's opponent, former City Attorney Gene Locke, has stated that he favors overturning a city charter amendment that bars Houston from extending benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, a bolder stance than that taken by Parker.

But Locke has also been courting the support of Dr. Steven Hotze, a conservative power broker and apparently one of the prime movers behind the effort to smear Parker. Hotze was the man behind the 1985 Straight Slate, a roster of City Council candidates he recruited to run on an anti-gay platform. (They all lost.)

According to a Hotze mouthpiece, he's thinking about stirring up his distasteful stew with a mailing inspired by Parker's sexuality.

Houston deserves better. Our city has a well-earned reputation for tolerance and openness. We don't need inflammatory appeals to folks' worst instincts.

We've been here before. In 1997 a small-minded ballot initiative would have ended the city's affirmative action program that helped minority and women contractors. Mayor Bob Lanier went on the air in an ad that bluntly stated his opposition to a proposal that would “turn back the clock to the days when guys who look like me got all the city's business.”

Lanier couldn't have been more clear: Discrimination is just not right.

It was a powerful moment of leadership. The referendum went down to defeat, and news outlets around the country marveled that a “wealthy white developer” had taken the lead on affirmative action.
It's time for another such moment of leadership.

Saturday afternoon, Gene Locke issued a statement rejecting “the style of campaigning that was the subject of an article in the Houston Chronicle.” He urged the people of Houston to choose a new mayor based on the issues and avoid being “swayed by divisive rhetoric.”

The rhetoric of people like Steven Hotze and Dave Welch carries a high cost. Their support should not be purchased at the price of bigotry.

"I increasingly see organized religion as actually my enemy. They treat me as their enemy. Not all Christians, of course. Not all Jews, not all Muslims. But the leaders. .."

Actor Sir Ian McKellen in an interview to The Los Angeles Times, as reported on

Uplifting interview with a ten year old

Here's a CNN interview with the boy from Arkansas who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  (I blogged about him last week.)

Another way of looking at referendum results

I saw an anonymous posting on a newspaper blog today that really struck home.  The writer urged us to take a closer look at the Maine referendum results.  I don't believe that anyone's civil rights should be determined by majority rule, but even if you do believe such referenda are appropriate, majorities are not voting to strip away same-sex marriage rights.  The writer on the blog argues that since 42% of eligible voters did not vote in Maine, then the breakdown of the total vote would look like this: 31% voted to strip away rights; 27% voted to keep them; 42% didn't care enough to go to the polls.  What that means is that 69% of the electorate either supported same-sex marriage or really didn't care.  That figure gives a vastly different impression of the true feelings of the state.

I decided to do some calculating of the Prop 8 vote in California.  The result reported in the media gave the measure to eliminate same-sex marriages was 52%-48%.  But even with 79% of the population voting, the combined total of those who supported same-sex marriage or didn't care was a 41% opposing same sex marriage; 38% supporting, and 21% with no strong opinion.  The result with these stats?  41% opposed same-sex marriage while 59% supported or had no opinion.  Yes, I know that some folks with strong feeling simply couldn't get to the polls, but that was certainly a minority.  What these new figures show is that even by the standards of majority rule, these ballot measures failed.  And it seems to me that if a minority of the electorate (a mere 31% in Maine and a higher but still far less than a majority of 41% in California) have actively voted against same-sex marriage, then maybe we should all reconsider how we view these results.

Monday, November 16, 2009

We need to act: this is important

I have tried to create a blog that reports what's going on in the gay world without resorting to hyperbole or anger.  I felt that we all needed a place to try to understand what is going on in the LGBT community, but not be discouraged.  Sometimes that is pretty impossible.  Monday afternoon a number of websites and newspapers reported the story of the murder of a young gay man in Puerto Rico.  I searched the Internet for reporting on this murder and have translated a report I found on, a Puerto Rico news site.  I've included the Spanish translation at the end of this post for those who speak Spanish or who would like to correct my translation -- please do so.  Please write to Attorney General Eric Holder and ask that this murder be investigated as a possible hate crime.  The email is:

The story in English is as follows.  One detail omitted from this story is that the murder victim was a well known member and leader of the gay community

Spokespeople from “Puerto Rico Para Tod@as” (“Puerto Rico for All”) and the Human Rights Foundation demanded that an impartial investigation for the killer of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, a 19 year old gay man, who appears to be the victim of a hate crime and whose body was found on Friday found burned, decapitated, and dismembered of his arms and legs in the vicinity of Guatave, in Cayey.

The leader and spokesperson from “Puerto Rico Para Tod@s,” Pedro Julio Serrano, denounced that the investigating officer in the case, Angel Roodriguez Colon, used words that Serrano considered “inconceivable, immoral, and unethical” to describe the homocide.

“These type of people who get involved in these sorts of things and go out into the street know what can happen to them,” said Officer Rodriguez to a TV reporter. (Univision)

“It is inconceivable that an investigator would imply that a victim would be responsible for his own killing.  That’s like the absurd argument that a woman is responsible for her rape because she was wearing a short skirt.  We demand that this agent be removed from the case and that Police Chief Figuero Sancha replace him with someone capable of bringing to justice this vile murderer, without any prejudices at all.”

For his part, Ada Conde, President of the Human Rights Foundation, asked Figuero Sancha and the Secretary of Justice, Antonio Sagaradia, to comply with the law that establishes mechanisms to investigate these types of cases and that deals with hate crimes.

The story in Spanish:

Portavoces de Puerto Rico Para Tod@s y la Fundación de Derechos Humanos exigieron hoy una investigación libre de prejuicios por el asesinato de Jorge Steven López Mercado, un joven homosexual de 19 años, que se presume fue víctima de un crimen de odio y cuyo cuerpo fue encontrado el viernes calcinado, decapitado y desmembrado de brazos y piernas en el área de Guavate, en Cayey.

El líder activista y portavoz de Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Pedro Julio Serrano, denunció que el agente investigador del caso, Ángel Rodríguez Colón, realizó expresiones "inconcebibles, inmorales y antiéticas", referentes al homicidio.

"Este tipo de personas cuando se meten a esto y salen a la calle saben que esto les puede pasar", expresó el agente Rodríguez a un noticiario televisivo (Univisión).

"Es inconcebible que el agente investigador aduzca que la víctima busó ser asesinado. Es como el abusrdo y falaz argumento de que una mujer se buscó ser violada por llevar falda corta. Exigimos la renuncia al caso de este agente investigador y que el Superintendente Figueroa Sancha ponga en su lugar a alguien capacitado que investigue este vil asesinato, por prejuicios de clase alguna", manifestó Serrano.

Por su parte, la licenciada Ada Conde, presidenta de la Fundación de Derechos Humanos, le solicitó a Figueroa Sancha y al Secretario de Justicia, Antonio Sagardía, que cumplan con la ley y establezcan mecanismos para que se investiguen este tipo de casos y que se procesen como crímenes de odio.

Did I read this right?

"I think gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California

"The law should treat each person with equal respect in relation to each person's singularities without the need to understand or regulate them."

--Argentine Judge Gabriela Seijtas, in ruling that the city of Buenos Aires must recognize the marriage of a gay male couple.  Her decision will likely pave the way for same-sex marriage in Argentina.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Houston, we have a problem

 After our loss on the Maine ballot initiative, I wrote about some of the LGBT candidates who had won elections across the country.  Especially encouraging was Annise Parker, who topped the ticket to win one of two run-off slots for Mayor of Houston.  Her sexual orientation was not really an issue in her campaign.  She has children and has been with her partner for two decades.  She never focused on her identity, and most politicians didn’t either.

Well, that has all changed.  Anti-gay activists are in panic mode over the possibility that one of the top ten US cities could be run by a --gasp--lesbian. In fact they are so panicked that they are launching a campaign not against what Parker stands for, but who she is.  They are warning people of the “gay takeover” of Houston.  (Their words, not mine.)  I’ve tried to envision what that might look like.  Hmmm.  Pink Fridays instead of casual Fridays?  Changing the name of the Houston Astros to the Houston Castros?  Making heterosexual marriage unconstitutional?  Replacing the Star Spangled Banner with  YMCA or In the Navy? The possibilities are endless.

But the opponents are dead serious.  The other candidate in the race, Gene Locke, had previously distanced himself from the anti-gay groups.  Now he’s not so sure he can live without them.  He is courting endorsements from these folks, including a man named Steve Hotze, who in the past recruited eight city council candidates -- a straight slate -- to run solely on an anti-gay platform.  Said David Welch, the leader of one of these groups, “The bottom line is that we didn’t pick the battle, she did, by making her agenda and sexual preference a central part of her campaign.”  What’s so ironic is that she’s barely mentioned her orientation.  And by the way, aren’t candidates supposed to make agendas the central part of their campaigns?

Houston is generally a gay friendly city with a large LGBT population.  It remains to be seen whether LGBT folks will feel as welcome there after the vicious and hateful campaign.

Thanks to and for much of the info in this post.

A CNN report on Annise Parker

This piece was filmed before the Houston primary.  What was once considered a "boring" campaign has heated up in an unfortunate way.

Where's the logic?

This video was taken at a candidate forum for the state legislature in New York.  The issue of gay marriage is due to be taken up soon, and this candidate will be voting.  His answer seems to sum up (for me, at least) the inability for opponents of same-sex marriage to present a clear and cogent argument.  I can't help but  to compare his words to those of the questioner.

Did I read this right?

"I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix."
--Dan Quayle.

(I know this has nothing to do with the subject of this blog, but I just couldn't resist.)

"But the point is, I do not mind the homosexuality. I understand it. But nevertheless, the point that I make is that goddamn it, I do not think that you glorify on public television homosexuality."
-- Richard Nixon, in recently released White House tapes, discussing a 1971 episode of All In The Family

Why Are They Afraid of Us?

Last week, Melody Barnes, President Obama’s Director of Domestic Policy, (see photo) spoke at a forum at Boston College.  During the meeting, she was asked about her feelings on same-sex marriage.  She suggested that she was okay with gays and lesbians marrying. In her words, "I come to my experience based on what I’ve learned, based on the relationships that I’ve had with friends and their relationships that I respect, the children that they are raising, and that is something that I support. But at the same time, when I walk into the White House, though I work to put all arguments in front of the president, as you say, I also work for the president,"

Sounds positive, right?  Except it’s not.  Aides at the White House immediately tried to deny that Ms. Barnes had expressed any support for same-sex marriage. They then requested that the tape of Ms. Barnes speaking at BC not be released until White House aides had the chance to review it.  Said John Aravosis late last week at Americablog, "It's been 4 days. Why has the video of the event not been released publicly? You'd think it was a scandal, or something, that a White House official might have been support (sic) of the g-a-y-s."

Finally, the White House agreed to make the video public on Friday, after vetting its contents.  Friday is  typically the day when politicians release embarrassing or controversial information since fewer Americans are paying attention.  So instead of feeling positive about the words of a senior advisor in the White House, many LGBT people are instead asking the same question of the administration  we have asked for quite some time now: “Why are you afraid of us?”

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: I am a supporter of Barack Obama.  His was the most enthusiastic presidential vote I'd ever cast.  And I can’t possibly imagine not voting for him in 2012.    But an inconvenient question remains: How many heterosexual couples would have eagerly supported a candidate if he publicly stated that they should not be married?  Think about it, because it’s a tough question and one that many LGBT people have had to grapple with.  Most of us decided to rise above this question in order to vote for Barack Obama.  I do wonder how many heterosexual couples would have been able to do the same.

So when you read that LGBT people need to be patient, that we need to lighten up a little and let the President deal with more pressing issues, please remember that many of us had to give up a profoundly important part of ourselves in order to pull the lever next to Obama on Election Day.  We've already given up enough for the Democratic Party.  When will the Democratic Party do the same for us?