Saturday, November 28, 2009

When fury is needed

The government of Uganda is soon to consider a bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death.  Anyone who supports gay rights (either straight or gay) will be sent to prison.  Anyone who speaks out favorably for same sex marriage can receive life in prison.  Anyone who even knows anyone who is gay and does not report this to the authorities will be sent to prison.  That's right: if a mother knows her child is gay and does not report this, both she and her child can both be sent to prison.

And yes, this is the 21st Century.

But before we start self-righteously ranting against Uganda -- and rant we should, at the top of our lungs and with fury -- we need to face the awful truth of American involvement in this heinous situation:

1.  Some members of the United States Congress belong to a secretive group called The Family.  Probably the most infamous members of this organization are Representative Joe "you lie" Pitts and Bart Stupak, the writer of the Stupak amendment that forbids the government from using insurance agencies that provide abortion coverage to women -- even if it is stipulated that women on this plan through the government cannot take advantage of this coverage.  Members of The Family have been very active in Uganda.  One of their point people is David Bahati, Ugandan member of The Family and one of the originators of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  Even worse, The Family has long had close ties to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been notoriously anti-gay.

2.  The United States may actually end up funding the execution (double entendre intended) of this law. According to Mike Signorile, "the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would criminalize key aspects of comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention education and imprison health-care workers who refuse to report sexually active gay patients to the police." In fact, our federal funds are already used to help punish HIV/AIDS education and health care workers.  And this ironic twist: the main transmission of HIV in Uganda is through heterosexual contact.  Under this new bill, health care workers who don't report LGBT patients would be subject to prison time.  Despite all this, US officials in charge of AIDS money in Uganda have actually defended their policy of remaining silent, saying that it is not their job to be monitors of how the money is spent, no matter how corruptly.

3.  We need the voice of the United States government to be louder and clearer.  Either the press or our government is dropping the ball.  The British newspaper The Guardian recently carried a story entitled, Fury at Uganda proposal for gay executions.  The story describes how UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- member of the conservative party -- expressed their deep concern for the pending legislation.  Where are the stories in our newspapers about United States fury over the situation?

Thanks to the following sites for their reporting on this issue: The Gist, Americablog.
" My cousin is an agoraphobic homosexual, which makes it kind of hard for him to come out of the closet."

-- singer and song writer Bill Kelly 

My note to the Democratic National Committee

I just received a request from the Democratic National Committee asking for more money.  I wrote I will not give to the party until LGBT issues are taken seriously.  The most recent evidence that they are not being taken seriously?

This story was picked up by Michelangelo Signorile at The Gist:

A report published on Time's web site just before the holiday has an explosive bit of information: the chief judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a while back that a federal employee who reports to him, a lesbian, be given federal marriage benefits, and it was actually going to happen until the White House, through the Office of Personnel Management -- headed by openly gay appointee, John Berry -- refused to comply and directed the health insurance carrier of the employee not to proceed.
Here's more from the Time piece Mike found:
Last week, the chief judge of one of America's most prominent federal courts ordered an Executive Branch agency to stop interfering with a court employee's efforts to secure health insurance coverage for her wife. "The Office of Personnel Management shall cease at once its interference with the jurisdiction of this tribunal," wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He gave the Administration 30 days to permit Karen Golinski, a lawyer employed by the Ninth Circuit, to include the woman she married under California law last year on her family health-insurance plan.

So, just to make sure I understand this:  the courts are now fighting to secure same sex health benefits?  And instead of supporting this, the administration is fighting back?  How much longer are we supposed to have faith that this administration has our best interests in mind?

31 years ago

These are the final recorded words of Harvey Milk, assassinated 31 years ago yesterday, November 27, 1978.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Adoption in France....

Before we start assuming that European countries -- even those who allow same-sex marriage --are completely open minded, make sure you read this piece that Patrick Inman sent me.  And a request: please feel free to send me any news story that would be appropriate for this blog!  I read as much as I can, but can never begin to read everything. This piece is from MacLean's Magazine in Canada.

Same-sex couples fight to adopt

In France, gay couples are not allowed to adopt children
by  Kate Engelhart on Thursday, November 26, 2009
When the French lesbian known to the public as “Emmanuelle B.” first applied to adopt a child in 1998, she was rejected; the adoption board cited the “lack of a paternal figure in [B.’s] household.” That explanation spurred a legal standoff that pitted French courts against gay rights advocates, who saw the rejection as a statement about their ability—or, more accurately, inability—to be parents. Last week, 11 years after the case began—and one year after the European Court of Human Rights condemned France for sexual discrimination—a French court overruled the 1998 verdict, conceding that it could not “legally justify the decision to reject [B.’s] request.”

B.’s supporters say the case is a flagrant example of high-level prejudice, because, since 1966, France has explicitly allowed unmarried individuals to adopt. And given that the now-48-year-old B. is a nursery school teacher, it would be hard to claim she is an unqualified caregiver. So last week’s reversal is being celebrated as a landmark. “This groundbreaking ruling means governments can’t use sexual orientation to stop someone from adopting a child,” charged Scott Long, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights division program at Human Rights Watch. L’Est Republicain, a French newspaper, dubbed the decision “the end of hypocrisy.”

For others, the victory is tainted. If B. does apply to adopt again, she will still have to designate herself as a single parent, despite the fact that she is in a 20-year relationship. That’s because French law still bars same-sex couples from adopting. And that view does not look poised to change: “The government and president have on several occasions expressed our position,” said spokesman Luc Chatal, “which is that we are not in favour of the adoption of children by same-sex couples.”

How much more of this sort of garbage can a community take?

Seems like I find way too many stories like this every day.  The accumulative power of endless stories like these is wearying.  When do we say enough is enough?

Thanks to James Hipps from for this:

During a conversation about the division between LGBT and evangelical residents, Mayor Davis told the New York Times that gays won’t go to heaven. Now, the mayor of Vallejo, a Northern California community has had to spend a little time back-peddling.

In a statement issued earlier this week, Davis claims that he’s actively seeking to represent all residents of Vallejo, not only heterosexual ones.

The mayor, who is an evangelical, told the Times gays are “committing sin and that sin will keep them out of heaven.”

Davis is now claiming his remarks were taken out of context, and that he won’t use his mayoral position to promote his religious ideology.

Davis defeated a gay candidate for mayor of Vallejo in 2007 by only two votes.

When will people start seeing others not as symbols or representatives of group but as human beings?  I know I already know the answer to this.  Quite some time from now.  But I can still hope!

Twinkie defense and gay panic

Dan White killed San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone 31 years ago today, on November 27, 1978.  White was given a very light sentence for the murder, resulting in rioting in the gay neighborhoods of San Francisco.  During the trial, White's lawyer presented what a newspaper reporter coined "the Twinkie defense."  (These words were never actually used in the trial.) The lawyer tried to convince the jury that Dan White's sudden consumption of high-sugar  junk food was a symptom of the depression that drove him to assassinate Milk and Moscone.  White served five years in prison.

Last week we heard of the brutal murder of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado young man from Puerto Rico.  The confessed killer, Juan Martínez Matos decapitated the body and cut off arms and legs.  In his confession he suggested that he may use the "gay panic defense."  This defense would argue that Martínez Matos killed Lopez Mercado because he didn't know the young man was male; he thought he had picked up a female prostitute.  While the term "Twinkie defense" has come to be a derogatory term used for a ludicrous trial defense, "gay panic defense" has become anything but.  In fact, this year Joseph Bidermann claimed that Terrance Hauser had made a sexual advance to him.  He was acquitted of murder, even though Biedermann had stabbed Hauser 61 times then went to his girlfriend's apartment, showered, and left. Biedermann's girlfriend called the police.

Let's hope the gay panic defense is soon seen as absurd as the Twinkie defense.

The gay agenda in elementary schools....

No government has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don't love anybody. 

--Rita Mae Brown, author of the classic Rubyfruit Jungle and many other novels

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Church Matters

The Roman Catholic Church has been in the news quite a bit these past few days, primarily because of two stories: (1) the threat of withdrawing social services from the Washington, DC area if the council passes a gay marriage ordinance and (2) the denial of Holy Communion to US Representative Patrick Kennedy because of his political views.  Some reports have treated these stories as one in the same, evidence that the lines between church and state are blurring.  I'm not sure this is the best way to look at these stories.  In my mind, they are actually quite different.

Let's take the DC story first.  During the Bush years, an emphasis on faith-based social services allowed religious organizations like the Catholic Church to team with the government to help those in need.  In some cases, churches were given government money to assist in these efforts.  The government also relied on some religious organizations to carry out what many consider the government's responsibility: to provide a safety net.   Charities have always been part of the American landscape, and that is all to the good.  But in DC, that charity became more than a mere supplement to government assistance: the Catholic Church now provides care to up to one third of the city's homeless population. The government became reliant on the church, which in turn gives the church enormous power over the government -- so much power that the church is threatening to cut off its aid to the poor if the government does not follow its instructions to deny same-sex marriage rights.  This is blackmail.  And this is a perfect example of how slippery the slope can be when it comes to church/state partnerships.  Even some Catholic governors like Tom Kaine  (left, above) have publicly criticized the church for using the poor as pawns in its power game.

The Patrick Kennedy (right) case, it seems to me, is quite different.  Because Kennedy supports abortion rights, the Bishop of Rhode Island informed him that he will no longer be able to take communion.  Many bloggers have noted that supporting same sex marriage can also be used as a litmus test for Catholic politicians: support gay marriage and you will no longer be able to participate in Holy Communion, the central part of the Catholic mass.  This case, however, differs from the DC story in one significant way.  I don't see a church/state issue here.  The bishop has every right to decide who should take communion.  The Catholic Church is not a democracy by any means; it is more like an absolute monarchy.  The government should not interfere with the bishop's decision, just as the government (contrary to what misleading ads might have told Mainers) should not be able to tell churches whom they can and can't marry.  The Kennedy case may be unfortunate in that it puts many Catholic politicians in the position of having to either publicly disagree with church teachings or follow these teachings in the political forum.  As a voter, I have the right and the obligation to make sure all politicians, Catholic or not, align with my beliefs. The constitution guarantees freedom from religion, but once you join a religion, that's between you and the church.  I think some Catholics have been in denial about this truth and about the doctrine of the church to which they belong.

I think an issue people aren't addressing is this: the Catholic Church is a hierarchy.  Catholics have very little, if any, say in what they are supposed to believe.  This is how the church works.  I couldn't remain part of a church that functioned this way and that required me to believe certain things, such as LGBT people are sinners, so I left.  I know other Catholics who have left for the same reason.  The central question here isn't a political one but a personal one that many politicians may need to ask themselves: can I remain in a church that doesn't align with some of my core beliefs?  It's a discussion between members of the church and their leaders.  Government does not have -- nor should have -- a place at this table.  The church has drawn its line in the sand.  Now Catholics need to decide if they can stay behind that line in good conscience.

Hope Springs Eternal in New Jersey

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

-- Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Jersey Showdown

When John Corzine lost his reelection bid for Governor of New Jersey, we knew it was not a good day for marriage equality.  Chris Christie, the Republican Governor-Elect, has vowed to veto any pro gay marriage bill to leave the legislature.  Still, a recent poll had shown that a majority New Jersey voters favored same-sex marriage.  There was hope that the legislature would pass a marriage bill before Corzine left office in January.

That hope is fading.  An anti-gay marriage group has spent half a million dollars on radio ads and mailings urging people to call their representatives to tell them not to take up the vote.  I've heard some of the ads, and not one -- not one -- gives a logical reason for opposing same-sex marriage.  Other than saying "because traditional marriage is between a man and a woman," the ads set up a false choice of either addressing unemployment or marriage equality.  The gist of these ads is, "Can you believe that with so many New Jersey citizens out of work that the legislature is actually thinking about changing traditional marriage?"  Subtext:  Unemployed?  Blame gay marriage!

The campaign has been effective.  A poll released today showed that a majority of New Jersey citizens now oppose same sex marriage. Some legislators are having second thoughts about passing a marriage bill, saying they don't want to anger the electorate.

Interesting.  When are they going to start worrying about our anger?  Maybe when it's so loud that they can't ignore it. 
"If homosexuality is a disease, let's all call in queer to work:  Hello.  Can't work today, still queer."  

---Robin Tyler, activist and writer

Bob Smith

Last weekend I had the honor of doing a reading with Bob Smith.  He was the first gay comedian to have an HBO special.  Since his stand up days, he's become a writer -- very witty, of course.  I read his book Selfish and Perverse this summer and loved it.  What I love about Bob is that his humor is never mean or hostile.  Here's an early clip of Bob's stand up routine.  If you ever get a chance to see him, go.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some politicians to be thankful for.....

It seems like very few politicians are willing to stick their necks out for LGBT people these days.  That's why when they do, it's important to recognize them.  Here are ten politicians I'd like to thank.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick: Simply put, the issue of gay marriage would have been on the ballot in Massachusetts if it weren't for his leadership.  

United States Representative Barney Frank:  He's feisty, argumentative, doesn't suffer fools gladly, and has no problem speaking his mind to anyone and everyone, including LGBT leaders.  And how can we ever forget his wonderful response to the woman with the Hitler poster at the town hall meeting?  "Mam, on what planet do you spend most of your time?"

New York Governor David Patterson: He may been in trouble with the electorate, but that isn't stopping him from speaking out for same-sex marriage and calling for a legislative vote on the matter.

United States Representative Tammy BaldwinThe first out lesbian in Congress, she gets the job done with tact, grace, and a smile.  Hard to believe she and Barney play on the same team.  Love them both.

United States Representative John Lewis: The hero of the Civil Rights Movement has also been a champion for LGBT rights before most even acknowledged our existence.  I heard him speak in the 1990's -- supporting same-sex marriage.  To this day it's the most impassioned speech for equal marriage I've ever heard.

Massachusetts Atty. General Martha Coakley: Has brought the Defense of Marriage Act to the Justice Department.  She's making people uneasy by putting the issue on the agenda, and that's all for the good.

United States Representative Michael Capuano: When Proposition 8 passed in California, he was one of a handful of politicians to address a protest rally in Boston.  He's been there for us every step of the way.  He and Martha Coakley are now running against each other for the senate seat Ted Kennedy vacated.  Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

United States Senator Ted Kennedy: Yes, he's gone, but there wasn't a politician I trusted more.

Rachel Maddow: Okay.  I know she's not a politician, but I couldn't imagine keeping her off a list of folks who have advanced LGBT issues.  And yes, we should add Keith Obermann while we're at it.

Victory Fund Candidates: The Victory Fund is a LGBT organization that supports progressive LGBT candidates.  This year, the Fund endorsed 79 LGBT candidates.  49 of those candidates have won so far.  Thanks to all of those folks who ran, victorious or not.


"I don't mind straight people as long as they act gay in public."
--T-shirt worn by Chicago Bulls player Dennis Rodman during a network-TV interview

From the mother of hate crime victim Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality."

---James Baldwin, author of Giovanni's Room

Documentary on the Maine vote: part 2

Second part of the documentary on the Maine marriage vote...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On a more personal note....

Originally I began this blog as a vehicle for my book, but soon I completely forgot about the book and started blogging just about LGBT news.  Tonight, however,  I'll do a quick blog about a reading I did in Philadelphia over the weekend as a benefit for Giovanni's Room, the oldest LGBT bookstore in the US, and quite possibly in the world. (See photo)

LGBT bookstores are closing around the country.  Once they were the only place where LGBT books could be bought, but as LGBT lit has become more mainstream, lots of LGBT books are available in chain bookstores, not to mention, which also provides anonymity for someone who isn't quite comfortable with his or her sexuality.  This is a shame, because LGBT bookstores are more than places to buy books.  They are community centers, places to drop in and spend a quiet hour with other LGBT folks.  While the growing acceptance of LGBT people certainly has its up side, it also has some down sides, and this is one of them.

So I was excited to be part of an evening of 20 authors reading from our works.  I read a short passage from my story collection, then a short passage from A Passionate Engagement, my memoir that focuses on the same-sex marriage movement. It will be released in October, 2010.

What was nice about the event was that the people who came really listened to what we were reading.  (I tried to convince myself that their attention was on me, not of the wall of erotic magazines that was in back of me while I read.)  People asked good questions after the reading, and I was able to meet a few authors I admire as well.

Tomorrow I'll dig back into the world of news.  Thanks for listening.

Brief two part Documentary on the Maine same sex marriage vote

This is the first of two short clips on the Maine referendum. Part two tomorrow.

"Never keep up with the Joneses.  Bring them down to your level.  It's cheaper."

--Quentin Crisp