Saturday, December 12, 2009

This is a watershed moment in American politics.  One of the largest cities in the country will be headed by an out lesbian, chosen by people who voted for her because of her experience and competence.  Houston rejected the politics of division and the extremists failed.

--Chuck Wolfe, President and CEO of the Victory Fund,

It's official!

From the Houston Chronicle website:

Parker wins it

The Houston Chronicle is calling the mayoral election for City Controller Annise Parker.

With 89 percent of precincts counted, Parker holds a lead of nearly 8,000 voters, a divide that former City Attorney Gene Locke cannot make up with the relatively small pool of voters expected to be counted in the remainder of the night.

Parker's election-day advantage has reached nearly 11 points.

With 652 of 738 precincts reporting in Harris County and 100 percent in Fort Bend County (slightly less than half of the total), Parker leads former City Attorney Gene Locke by about three points with 52.7 percent to his 47.3 percent. About 7,000 votes separate them out of more than 145,000.

Looking very good for Parker

Election results are looking very good for Annise Parker, who would become the first openly gay mayor of a major American city.  (Houston is now considered the 4th largest.)  It's been a very contentious fight, with more than a little homophobia in the mix.  CNN's Don Lemon just interviewed a confident and upbeat Parker.  Here's a photo of Parker's supporters shouting  Si, se puede!  Yes, we can!

Homophobia in Houston's mayoral race makes the national media

Polls close in about 90 minutes in Houston.  So will end a race that was one of the ugliest seen in Houston in quite some time.  Even The New York Times picked up on the story today:

December 12, 2009

Houston Mayoral Race Sees Personal Attacks

HOUSTON — Houston voters will elect their next mayor on Saturday in a runoff contest that increasingly has become focused on the sexual orientation of one of the two Democratic candidates.
The candidate, City Controller Annise Parker, is openly gay. If she defeats her opponent, Gene Locke, a former city attorney, Houston would become the largest city in the nation to elect an openly gay mayor.
Ms. Parker, 53, has run on her experience in City Hall, portraying herself as a stronger leader better equipped to handle city budgets and municipal affairs, while Mr. Locke has vowed to crack down on crime and has emphasized his endorsement by the Houston Police Officers’ Union.

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Locke has not raised the issue of Ms. Parker’s sexual orientation, and she has played down the historic aspect of her bid for office.

“I am not running to be a role model,” she said at a recent debate. “I am running to be the mayor of Houston.”

But in the final week of the campaign, Ms. Parker’s sexuality has emerged as an issue. A group of black pastors spoke out against Ms. Parker because of what they called her gay agenda. On Monday, Mr. Locke, who is black, came under fire after the revelation that two members of his finance committee made $20,000 donations to the political action committee of Stephen Hotze, an anti-gay advocate.
Mr. Hotze sent out mailings that urged potential voters to reject the candidate endorsed by the “gay and lesbian political caucus.” A flier put out by David Wilson, another opponent of gay rights, shows Ms. Parker with her longtime partner by her side, with the headline: “Is this the image Houston wants to portray?”

Mr. Locke has tried to distance himself from these attacks and has denied that he financed Mr. Hotze’s attack advertisements.

Ms. Parker, who came in first out of four major candidates in the Nov. 3 general election, is generally seen as enjoying a slight lead over Mr. Locke, but most politicians here said the election was difficult to call. The candidates are largely indistinguishable on their policy positions, local political analysts said.
“They’re essentially the same on all substantive issues, so now they have turned to attacks based on character,” said Robert M. Stein, a political scientist at Rice University.

Mr. Locke has accused Ms. Parker of not supporting tax cuts and then misrepresenting her position. He has also called her “soft on crime.” Ms. Parker has criticized Mr. Locke’s past role as city attorney, portraying him as a self-serving lobbyist and focusing attention on his role in deals for three new sports stadiums.

Mr. Locke has found himself fighting the perception that he is the candidate of big business. “I came up the hard way,” Mr. Locke said Wednesday in a debate. “I didn’t have a silver spoon; it was a wooden spoon.”

With no strong Republican contender in the running, some political analysts say a critical bloc of voters will be the mostly white, conservative residents of the city’s suburban fringes.

“White liberal Democrats are behind Parker, and African-Americans are going to go with Locke” said Marc Campos, a consultant to the Locke campaign. “Moderate Republicans, fiscal conservatives — they’re going to be the ones who decide this.”

One open question is whether conservatives will come out to vote against Ms. Parker because she is a lesbian, strategists said. The dynamics of the race mirror the vote against same-sex marriage last year in California, in which black voters joined with conservatives to approve the ban, some political scientists say.

But Ms. Parker’s sexuality was not an issue in the election, and it is unclear how much impact the anti-gay groups have had.

Richard W. Murray, a political scientist at the University of Houston, said the turnout among blacks, which was low in the general election, might be critical. To offset Ms. Parker’s apparent advantage among white liberals, Professor Murray said, Mr. Locke needs a large turnout by blacks, a majority of whom supported him in November.

“Virtually all the white Democrats are going to Parker, and she’s very competitive among Republicans,” Professor Murray said. “Locke is particularly behind the eight ball unless there is robust black voting.”

Is This The Image Houston Wants To Portray?

-- caption under a photo of Annise Parker and her longtime female partner, as seen on a flyer send to thousands of Houstonians shortly before today's runoff election

I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus

 The London Gay Men's Chorus

Good News in LGBT Politics

It's been a big month in politics for LGBT candidates.  We saw the election of the first openly gay speaker of a state assembly in California in Juan Pérez (left).  This is a huge moment in LGBT political history.

yeagerIt would be a shame if the significance of Mr. Pérez's appointment overshadowed two other political breakthroughs.  Evan Low (right) became the youngest Asian American mayor in the country as well as the youngest openly gay mayor when he became mayor of Campbell, California on December 2.  California stepped up to the plate again when openly gay Ken Yeager (left) was named president of the Board of Supervisors in Santa Clara.

And let's not forget that Alex Wan and Simone Bell both won their runoffs in Atlanta earlier this month, capturing seats in the legislature and on the city council.

Today, however, may be the biggest prize of all as Annise Parker (right)tries to rise above what many consider an election filled with homophobia to become Mayor of Houston.   If she wins, she will be the first openly gay mayor to lead a top-ten city in the United States.  Polls on Friday showed her pulling ahead, but given the tenor of the campaign, anything could happen.  I'll publish results here as soon as I get them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dan Savage on the Jenny and Mark Sanford divorce...

I wouldn't consider myself Dan Savage's greatest fan.  I recognize his wit and talent, but his biting sarcasm doesn't always speak to me.  However, his column on Jenny Sanford is spot on:

Jenny Sanford Files For Divorce

Posted by Dan Savage on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 9:10 AM

What is there to say really? They tried to reconcile but weren't able to repair their relationship. Her husband did describe his mistress as his "soul mate" at a press conference and that's not a wound that heals, huh? So this was to be expected. I feel bad for the kids. As for the statement Jenny Sanford released...
“As so many of us know, the dissolution of any marriage is a sad and painful process. It is also a very personal and private one."
The dissolution of a marriage is a sad, painful, personal and private process—if you're the straight first lady of South Carolina. If you're just some nice lesbian couple living in Maine or California the dissolution of your marriage is a highly public process, complete with lying campaign ads and anti-gay demagoguery and bigots traipsing to the polls And these anti-gay bigots in Maine didn't look too sad on election night in Maine:
Let's respect Jenny Sanford's privacy where these deeply personal matters are concerned. Which is more than this socially conservative political wife—who now has political ambitions of her own—was ever willing to do for gays and lesbians.

A little exageration?

The other day I was driving home listening to NPR.  A program about the "tea bagger" movement caught my attention.  The program focussed on Texas "tea baggers," a group of rebels who have initiated a movement that, in part, opposes the power of the federal government.  Some tea baggers have even articulated a desire to leave the union. 

Then the program dug a little deeper, interviewing other people who were part of this movement.  One woman was asked what she didn't like about President Obama.  She responded with this statement: I don't think I've ever heard him say anything positive about the United States.

I listen to or read news many hours a day.  I've heard the passionate arguments of either side on so many debates.  But this statement --  I don't think I've ever heard him say anything positive about the United States -- really frightened me. Why?  It was so divorced from reality as to make me realize that there was no possibility of having a logical conversation with people.  

Think about it: I don't think I've ever heard him say anything positive about the United States.  Is it even conceivable that a candidate could win the election without saying anything positive about the US?  Even an election for town council? Is it even possible that someone could hear Obama's inauguration speech and still believe this is true?  Is it even possibly sane to consider Obama's Nobel Prize Speech and still believe this?

Of course it isn't.  Which is what makes it so scary.  In order to be seen as being positive about this country, what tea baggers believe is that you must never question or never criticize it.  Ironic, isn't it, since the tea baggers prime motive seems to be to tear down the federal government.  And they are the ones who are telling us that to be fully patriotic means that you must never doubt whether or not your country is right.  Unless, of course, the leader of the opposing party is president. Then all bets are off: tea baggers can scream and shout down and threaten to leave the union -- the very definition of unpatriotic.

Number NINE?

I guess the only thing that confuses me about this music video was how it ended up as NUMBER NINE in the list of the gayest music videos of all time (as listed by Out Magazine.)  I mean, what did it take to make it into the top five?


Why don't we ever hear same-sex marriage opponents cite this biblical quote?

A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed.

-- Deut 22:13-21

Nah, that's not HATE!


When Bob Emrich led the charge to overturn the Maine legislature's passage of a law that allowed same-sex marriage, he was, of course, just defending traditional marriage.  It had nothing to do with disliking gay people.  As the blog Box Turtle Bulletin cites him,  “At some point, it’s a personal, private matter."  Right.

Box Turtle Bulletin goes on to say that Emrich's “personal, private” comments may have only been for public consumption in Maine, and his real goals and desires may be something quite other than what he was willing to admit. In fact, Emrich may well favor draconian laws that enact extreme civil punishment of gay men and women. And Emrich is part of that previously-unknown but amazingly large collection of conservative evangelical Americans who have been investing time and effort in Uganda.

Good As You has a copy of an email sent out yesterday by Emrich to those who share his religious and political views.
I have just recently returned from two weeks in Uganda, ministering the Word among village pastors and Churches. It was a refreshing change of pace from the last year spent on the “marriage referendum”...I visited almost 20 remote villages and spent time with the believers. One of the common sentiments expressed there was that “in order to have a healthy village, there must be a strong and healthy church”... as I work my way back into ministry here at Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church (Plymouth) and with the Maine Jeremiah Project, I wanted to share the following article I found in Uganda’s largest daily newspaper. I had tucked it into my journal and found it yesterday as I reviewed some of my scribbling. I think it speaks for itself, but I hope you will wonder, as I do, where our own culture lost its way.

Box Turtle Bulletin found the article in question.  And guess what? It challenges "sodomists" who swear to you "that what they do in the privacy of their bedroom does not concern the public." It calls for cultural and religious leaders to defend the "African heritage against the moral confusion of Western civilisation."  And it calls the politician who came up with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as "brilliant."  This is the bill that would put gay people to death.

Can I say it one more time? No. not everyone hates.  But sometimes we use the word hate to describe opponents to same-sex marriage because, well, how else do you describe a "man of God" who supports laws that kill gay people?  And how many times will the public be snookered into believing that these leaders against same-sex marriage, who spend millions of dollars and hours to make sure their fellow citizens don't get what they have, aren't just worried about the definition of "marriage"?

Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin and Good As You for the research for this entry.

Thanks, Rick Warren

If you don't follow Rick Warren closely, you might think he was a pretty reasonable guy.  Remember, he's the one who gave the invocation at the Obama inauguration.  And, there's no other way to say it, he lies.  And there's proof.  He claimed on Larry King that he had taken no stance on Proposition 8 in California even while there was video of him urging people to support it it.  He claimed never, never to having compared gay relationships to incest or polygamy even though there are videos (damn those videos) proving otherwise.  He has not told the truth.

So when Rick Warren finally condemned the pending Ugandan law that would put gay people to death, Rick Warren played the innocent once again.  His video, urging the Ugandan government to nix the death penalty clause of the law, portrays Warren as a victim: how dare all those people assume I supported that law?

Well, Rev. Warren, it's pretty easy.  You've been involved in Ugandan politics and religion for quite some time.  And when first asked to condemn the law, you said it wasn't your role to do so.

Pardon me for being skeptical, but I find your statement too little, too late, and too political.  Over the past few days, when the political wind was blowing just a bit to hard in your face, you finally made a statement.  And you responded, as you usual do, in pure self interest.  Self-interest isn't a bad thing necessarily; I just appreciate it when people are a little more honest about it as a motive.

If you want to see Rick Warren's statement to see what I'm talking about, take a look below.

Gee, thanks, Rick

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Enough about Tiger

Okay.  Full disclosure.  I have not had sex with Tiger Woods.  I don't if that makes me an outcast, a loser, or maybe a bit more objective in discussing his problems.  I'm hoping it makes me the later.

What is it with the obsession with Tiger Woods?  Some of my favorite people, including Keith Obermann, have completely let me down on their coverage on the Tiger Woods' private life.    I don't want to hear any more from news agencies. Just a few reasons why Woods and family deserves privacy from serious media:

1.  He is not a political figure.  John Edwards, who would have put the Democratic victory in jeopardy, is one thing.  A sports figure -- no matter how talented or revered -- is another.

2. He hasn't used his status to judge others.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but has he ever stood on a holier-than-thou soap box to belittle others?

3. He hasn't been hypocritical.  I've never heard Woods proclaim that marriage was between one man and one woman.  He's never used his power and prominence to assert any sort of moral authority.

4.  We are at war.  We are still in an economic crisis.  The environment is in crisis.   Leave the Woods story to the tabloids.  I want more from news sources I respect.

So please, Keith and company.  When I grab the remote to hear you, I want to learn about real issues that affect the world.  I want to understand why the health care bill is being watered down minute by minute.  I want to hear about anything else but Tiger right now.  

News and updates....

1. It's almost official: Juan Perez has become the first openly gay speaker of a state legislative body.  His fellow Democrats elected him today with the official, public vote to take place in January.

2. Austria has passed a civil unions bill, allowing many of the same rights and responsibilities as straight couple.  There is, however, a pretty distasteful caveat: the bill forbids adoption or artificial insemination for gay couples.

3. According to some bloggers, the mayoral race in Houston has come down to a battle over homophobia, with Annise Parker's opponent refusing to shun the endorsement of one of Houston's best known anti-gay activists who proposed a "straight slate" some years back to counter gay candidates.

4. An anti-bullying program that had been specific to anti-gay harassment has been nixed by a San Francisco Bay Area school.  The Alameda Board of Education this week to opt for a more generic anti-bully curriculum has done little to ease tensions in the school district.  Gay parents had pressed for the more specific curriculum to combat bullying while other parents thought elementary school was too early to discuss such matters. (Of course, if anti-gay bullying is taking place in elementary schools, isn't the issue already being discussed by elementary schoolers?)  The 45 minute, once-a-year lessson regarding anti-gay harassment sparked a lawsuit.

It's not just Uganda

Doug Ireland has written a report Gay City News that is extremely disturbing.  He writes

Ten young Iranian men, including eight teenagers, are currently awaiting execution for sodomy, and two more are being re-tried on the same capital charge. And, in an exclusive interview with Gay City News, an Iranian student gay rights activist confirmed for the first time the existence of queer organizing on multiple university campuses throughout Iran.

The information about the ten youths currently under sentence of death for sodomy (lavaat in Persian) was released on November 25 in a joint appeal by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), and COC of the Netherlands, the world’s oldest LGBT rights group, founded in 1946. The three organizations called on Western countries “with significant diplomatic and economic ties to Iran, including Germany, France, Canada, as well as the European Union, to pursue diplomatic efforts to cease these executions.

Hesam Mishagi is a 21-year-old gay rights leader in Iran.  Through a translator he told  Gay City News via telephone that his organization has been in place for five months.  His take on the crackdown in Iran is fascinating.  Because of the fraudulent elections, he claims the government wants to prove its authority by persecuting and silencing sexual minorities.  The student movement for LGBT rights has not gone unnoticed.  According to one LGBT leader, 130 students have been arrested for their involvement in recent weeks.  Many of those arrested for sodomy have a very difficult time finding lawyers because of the stigma of homosexuality in Iran.

The English-language web site of Iran’s Committee of Human Rights Reporters is at To protest the impending executions for sodomy in Iran, click on Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at

Another take on Uganda

Here's an interesting take on the Uganda situation from David Link at Independent Gay Forum

This is exactly what I was worried about.  By taking the death penalty out of the Uganda anti-homosexuality bill, the government has improved the bill's reputation, and its chances.
The Minister of Ethics and Integrity, James Nsaba Buturo said the government supports the bill because homosexuality and lesbianism are “repugnant to the Ugandan culture,” but wanted a more “refined” set of punishments.  Death was too much, so the refinements include life in prison and reeducation.
Whether the punishment is sufficiently refined or not, Buturo articulates the rotten core of this bill: a heterosexual majority running roughshod over the dignity of a very small, and very vulnerable minority for no reason other than political dominance.  And heterosexuals can get swept into the vortex; the bill imposes a regime of controlled speech and opinion, where objections to homosexuality may be freely uttered, but support is prohibited.

I don’t know about Ugandan culture, but that abuse of power is repugnant to any civilized government.  And I am afraid our heated rhetoric has not helped.  To my mind, at least, this was never about the death penalty; it was always about the discrimination.  But after we set the stage with our focus on government murder, the bill now looks, to many people, ever so much more reasonable.  We may have cause to regret our inadvertent aid in making that happen.

While I understand Mr. Link's concerns -- surely no one should be celebrating life imprisonment for being gay -- I also wonder whether or not any of this would have come to the media's attention if it were not for the journalists who were highlighting the "death to gay people" clause of the bill.  Rachel Maddow, who has been in the forefront of this issue, certainly focused on the death penalty.  Now, however, she seems to be digging deeper and calling attention to other heinous aspects of the law, including connections with the United States. As long as the journalists who drew attention to the death penalty aspects of the bill don't let up -- and I don't think they will -- we may be able to address the other punishments included in the bill.  It's a horrible story all around, but we need to keep pushing.

Whatever the case, thanks David Link for your thoughtful piece.
"Is a gay play a play that has sex with other plays?"

--Harvey Fierstein, playwright and actor

I guess we're not in Kansas anymore -- or for that matter, Franco's Spain

Here's a public service announcement from Spain combat AIDS (SIDA, in Spanish).   The idea behind the campaign is to get people to be angry at AIDS, in he hopes that this anger will lead to safer sexual decisions.  I've translated the first part of the video below.  The rest, I think, is self-explanatory.

To you, who has screwed us over for so many years, who has crushed everyone: young people, older people, women, men, straights and gays.  To you, who has been so detestable, we say....


Update on the death bill for LGBT people in Uganda

Apparently, the most inhumane pieces of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill  being discussed in Uganda have been dropped.   Writes Bloommberg: The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties... The Ugandan government supports the bill because homosexuality and lesbianism are 'repugnant to the Ugandan culture,' Buturo said. Still, it favors a more refined set of punishments, he said.

Of course I'm pleased that if this bill passes homosexuality and HIV status would not be punishable by death.  But my fear in focusing on this aspect of the bill has been that the lack of discussion around the entire bill.  What's left of the bill is horrible enough: seven years in prison for being gay and three years in prison for knowing someone gay and not reporting that person to the authorities.  If the bill passes with these penalties in tact, I don't think there's a great deal to celebrate.  The bottom line, in my book, is that there is no compromise here.  None of us should be satisfied doing business and supplying aid to a country that imprisons its citizens because of who they are.

Rachel Maddow has over the past few nights done a superb job uncovering the frightening connections between the originators of the Anti-Homosexual Bill and members of the United States Congress.  And these connections are even deeper than she originally believed.  Time also reports a connection between the bill and some US politicians and religious figures:

The bill has an American genesis of sorts, inspired to a large extent by the visits of U.S. evangelicals who are involved with a movement that promotes Christianity's role in getting homosexuals to become "ex-gays" through prayer and faith. Ugandan supporters of the bill appear to be particularly impressed by the ideas of Scott Lively, a California conservative preacher who has written a book, The Pink Swastika, about what he calls the links between Nazism and a gay agenda for world domination, which, by itself, would have raised the anti-colonial sensitivities of Ugandan society.

Wow.  Gay people are  going to take over the world just as the Nazis tried to?  Take over the world?  I can't even keep my desk neat.  It's laughable if it weren't so serious.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Supreme Court to take up policy of religious groups

This piece is from The Washington Post:

The Christian Legal Society at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco several years ago began requiring its members to sign a statement of faith. The society says a person who "advocates or unrepentantly engages in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman" cannot become a member of the group and participate in setting its policies.

The university then refused it official status, meaning it was ineligible for such perks as meeting space or a cut of the school's student activities fee. The university said the society was the first group to refuse to abide with its policy that organizations "not discriminate unlawfully on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation."

Now the US Supreme Court has decided that it will hear this case.  At issue is whether or not campus funds can be used to support an organization that will not allow one class of students as members.  It's also important to note that Hasting's College is part of the public college system in California, and as such receives state money.  Some religious groups are claiming that barring gay people from his group is a question of religious freedom.  Gay rights groups are claiming that The Christian Legal Society does not have the right to bar admission. The ruling might be an indication of the gay friendliness (or lack thereof) of the Supreme Court.

A few important words from Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsten urges his fellow citizens from New Jersey to support marriage equality:

Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I've been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I've long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, "The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is -- a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law." I couldn't agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.

Rachel Maddow talks to Richard Cohen

A while ago I ran a video of Richard Cohen, leader in the "coming out straight" movement that claims to provide "hope" for gay people wanting to live a straight lifestyle. He was the guy who beat the hell out a chair while screaming his mother's name.  As destructive as that might have been, it really doesn't compare to what Rachel Maddow has discovered on her show. Watch.

Political news

Many blogs are reporting that openly gay mayoral candidate Annise Parker has been dealing with homophobic attacks and that top supporters of her opponent, Gene Locke, have been funding these attacks.  Locke has denied any connections but according to the latest finance reports, two members of Locke's finance committee both gave $20,000 each to the PAC of conservative political activist Steven Hotze, who has a long history of opposing LGBT candidates. The Houston Chronicle reports that Holtze sent a mailer to voters last week urging them not to vote for candidates who were “endorsed by gay lesbian political action committee."  Parker has a slim lead over Locke in the polls.  We should know this Saturday who wins.

Could there be an openly gay Speaker of the House of Representatives in California?  It's looking more and more like a possibility, although we've certainly learned that when it comes to gay candidates and appointments, anything can happen at the last minute.  According to Capitol Weekly, "First-term Assemblyman John Perez, an ally of organized labor and cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has secured commitments from members of his caucus that could make him the next Assembly speaker."  The vote could tale place as early as next week.  If it happens, Perez will be the first openly gay speaker in any state history.

Short homemade movie about the New Jersey vote yesterday

 Here's a short video explaining what happened in the senate committee yesterday in New Jersey.  The marriage equality bill passed the committee late last night, which means that the entire senate will now debate.  Three hurdles remain: the senate must pass the bill, it must leave the house committee, and it must pass the house.  Governor Corzine has already promised to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A senatorial double standard?

As I've started this blog, I've stayed away from the more gossipy aspects of political life, except, perhaps, when truths about a person's private life are in direct contradiction to their public statements and political behavior.  I don't believe in "outing" people, and I sometimes think that those of us on the left have done more to make a celebrity out of the Beauty Queen from California and her anti-gay marriage stand than the right wing.

So I've thought a great deal about his post.  Full disclosure: Scott Brown (left), who won the Mass Republican primary for the senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy, is not someone of whom I am particularly fond.  He was a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage and, to a degree, civil unions.  But it is not in this context that I write about his posing as a nude centerfold for Cosmo in his twenties.  I actually don't think this should disqualify anyone, but it is staggering to think what the career of Democratic nominee Martha Coakley's (right) would be if she had done the same thing.   Reverse the photos.  Can you ever imagine Atty General Coakley elected for anything in Mr. Brown's position?  And for the record, Scott Brown is now a state senator in Massachusetts.  He was the only viable candidate who ran for the Republican nomination for senator.

Love on the Bay

ebay, that is.  Good As You reports that shortly after New York voted down equal marriage, Jamie Frevele, an unmarried heterosexual woman, decided to auction off her right to marry.  The highest bidder gets the right and the money goes to an LGBT rights group.

A small example of how inaccuracies are passed off as facts

I was just reading the notes that were taken during the discussion on the Senate Judiciary Committee for the same-sex marriage bill in New Jersey.  These notes can be found on the terrific blog, Box Turtle Bulletin.   Timothy Kincaid took detailed notes and commentary all evening.  Some of what he heard are the same old notions of male/female marriage being the "gold standard" to which all should strive to achieve.  One senator pointed out that homosexual activity in prison was evidence that being gay was a choice.  And as Kincaid notes, anti-equality folks are incapable of saying the word gay.  It's always homosexual, just to remind you again that gay relationships are all about sex.

Part way through the hearing Kincaid writes that someone has stated that Catholic Charities in Massachusetts lost its license to provide adoption after same-ex marriage was deemed constitutional.  Then he writes in parenthesis, completely untrue.

And it most certainly is.  This is an important point, because religious exemptions have been proposed to many of the marriage bills, including this one in New Jersey.  They have been seen as friendly amendments, not proposed changes to water down the law or lessen chances of its passage.  I haven't spoken to any same-sex marriage supporter who believes that churches should be required to marry same-sex couples.  Separation of Church and State means just that.  But this is the fear that is being fostered.  And as long as a falsehood like Catholic Charities in Massachusetts lost its license to provide adoption is allowed to go unquestioned, these falsehoods will continue perpetuating that fear.

The story with Catholic Charities in Massachusetts is quite simple.  For 103 years, the organization placed children in foster homes, including some foster homes with same-sex couples.  This was what the organization did.  After same-sex marriage became an option in Massachusetts, the Catholic Church, having spent over a million dollars trying to defeat it, lost the battle.  It then decided that it change its policy and not place foster children with same-sex couples as it had done for years.  Cardinal Sean O'Malley (right) even used the term "do violence to them," to describe what happened to children in these situations.

Catholic Charities worked through the Department of Social Services in Massachusetts.  The state of Massachusetts cannot legally discriminate, so Catholic Charities was not allowed to change its stance on same-sex foster parents that it had embraced for many years.  As a result, many members of the Board of Catholic Charities resigned, not in protest over same-sex marriage but over the church's decision to change its adoption policy.  These board members are lay leaders in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, including the Chair of the Committee, Peter Meade (left), who wrote an op-ed in a Boston newspaper explaining his decision as well as his support for same-sex marriage.

So Catholic Charities did not lose its license to place children in foster homes any more than it will lose permission to feed the poor in Washington if it follows though on its threat to withdraw its social service support in DC if the city allows same-sex marriage.

In the midst of heated debate, sometimes people misspeak without knowing it.  Other times, however, the "inaccuracy" is not a slip of the tongue at all. Statements are calculated to instill fear, in this case fear that religious institutions will be required to marry gay people or lose their tax exempt status.  This is simply false.

Thanks, of course, to Timothy Kincaid at Turtle Box Bulletin, for his report on the hearings.

Some good news

The Obama Administration has been getting a great deal of negative press in the LGBT media as of late, much of it warranted.  Yesterday didn't make up for that criticism, but the ceremony marking the swearing in of David Huebner as Ambassador to New Zealand and Somoa was a welcome break.  Mr. Huebner and his partner attended the ceremony.  There's a fifteen minute video of the ceremony posted below.  The photo was taken from Towleroad.  Huebner is not the first out ambassador from the United States.  James Hormel was the first, to Luxembourg during the Clinton administration, and Michael Guest was the second, to Romania, under George W. Bush, although I doubt the Bush administration was quite as open to discussing their ambassador's family as Joe Biden is in the clip.  It's a nice moment.


Out US Representative Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin told attendees at a Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference over the weekend that she is optimistic that the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 (DPBO) will reach the house floor this year.  The bill would ensure benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees.  She also expects that ENDA (Employment and Non-Discrimination Act) that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace.  She also is confident that Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be repealed in the near future.  The House of Representatives is more progressive than the Senate, where the Democratic majority is thin.

Vice President Biden swears in David Huebner as Ambassador to New Zealand and Somoa

Monday, December 7, 2009

"I'm a supporter of gay rights.  And not a closet supporter either.  From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community.  There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant." 

--Paul Newman

New Jersey marriage news from the NYT

Tonight's news re: same-sex marriage from the New York Times.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A bill to legalize gay marriage has cleared the New Jersey state Senate Judiciary Committee, paving the way for a full Senate vote Thursday.  Monday night's committee vote was 7-6.

New Jersey is the best chance for proponents to add a sixth state allowing same-sex unions.  A similar measure was voted down last week in the New York state Senate. Last month, voters in Maine overturned a law that was enacted this year to allow same-sex weddings but never took effect.
Gay marriage is recognized in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa. It becomes legal in New Hampshire in January.

Proponents want the New Jersey bill passed quickly because Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine (right) has said he'd sign it before leaving office.

Republican Gov.-elect Chris Christie (left) says he'd veto it. He takes office Jan. 19.

News Items

1. According to the BBC, Antonio Ruiz is the first gay man to receive a letter of apology from the Spanish government for being imprisoned in 1976 for being gay.  Mr. Ruiz received both a letter and nearly $6,000 in reparations for three months that he was incarcerated under a law enacted during the Franco Regime.  Although Franco died in 1975, the law was still in effect after his death.   Ruiz's letter and compensation were made possible through Spain's Historical Memory Law of 2007, which recognizes victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco Regime.

2. Many LGBT groups are expressing outrage at the Grammy nomination of an singer who has called for the murder of gay men.  The singer, Buju Banton, sings in “Boom, Bye Bye” that “faggots get up and run” when he comes, that “they have to die,” and that he will shoot them in the head or “burn them up bad.”  He not only has refused to stop singing the song, but has insisted, “There is no end to the war between me and faggots." In a statement, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center said, “It’s an affront to LGBT people, and to all fair-minded people around the world, that Buju Banton was nominated."
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3. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has spoken out against the nomination of the first out lesbian to be assistant bishop of Los Angeles.  Asking that the bishops of the Communion continue to acknowledge  a "gracious restraint" in order to hold the church together, Williams reminded all that Rev. Mary Glasspool's position as assistant bishop was not final, and that there was still time to stop her appointment.  His quick response to Glasspool's selection was especially difficult for many since he has yet to condemn the Ugandan "Anti Homosexual Bill of 2009," graciously or otherwise.

4.  It looks like we may be seeing a vote on equal marriage rights in New Jersey this week after all.  Since Gov. John Corzine has promised to sign the bill into law before he leaves office in January and because his successor has vowed to veto it, the next few days are the only opportunity to pass an equal marriage bill.  It remains quite uncertain, however, if the bill will pass the legislature.
"Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?" 

-novelist Ernest Gaines

London Gay Men's Chorus

Here's a tape of the London Gay Men's Chorus version of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." (When I Come Out on Christmas Day.)  Not always perfect sound, but still worth it.


Voting for Senator in Massachusetts

Tomorrow, Massachusetts will nominate a Democrat and a Republican to run for the senate seat held for over four decades by Ted Kennedy.  While no one in the bunch can match the political skills he honed during that time, the Democratic field of four  is strong.  I can easily and enthusiastically support any one of them in the final election.  It's a comforting feeling, as is the fact that all four are great on LGBT issues, from ending don't ask, don't tell to supporting same-sex marriage rights.

Remember: same sex marriage has been in Massachusetts a little over five years.  Today it would be hard to imagine anyone winning a state wide office on a platform of opposing marriage equality.  In the 2010 governor's race, for example, Charlie Baker, the Republican, has already addressed the issue head on when declaring his candidacy, vowing his full support, then selected an out gay man as his running mate.  And, as I have noted before, Deval Patrick has been an indispensable leader in the fight for marriage equality.

What this means for me when I vote tomorrow is that I've gotten to know the candidates a little better than I might have.  The candidate debates avoided an issue that, when discussed in the political forum these days, rarely offers new insight.  We know the sound bites on both sides; there's not much more to say so candidates simply say it  louder, angrier.  There's been none of that in the Democratic primary because of the unanimity of opinion.  So now we can dig deeper, try to understand the backgrounds and impulses of the candidates, get a better handle on their knowledge of other, more complex issue.  The litmus test is gone; I don't even have the option of voting for a Democratic candidate against equal marriage rights in Massachusetts.  I can make my decision on their stances on the death penalty, civil liberties health care.  I can weigh experience  more than I might have.  In short, I have choices.

Not too long ago, it was considered risky, even courageous, to support civil unions in a statewide election.  When Robert Reich ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002, he made headlines by supporting equal marriage.  Now, it seems, you'd make headlines if you didn't.

In the Republican primary in Tuesday, one of the two candidates  is in complete support of same sex marriage.  The other, Scott Brown, is a state senator who was a leader in opposition to equal marriage rights. Because Brown is better known and has the party behind him, he'll probably get the nomination.  But it will be a tough road for him.  Massachusetts voters like their Republicans with a moderate to liberal bent when it comes to social issues.  Mitt Romney ran on such a platform, then shifted to the right when he decided to run for president.  Scott Brown must know this.  The marriage issue is listed last on his website, and his position is far more tempered than it was, one that would be hard to use to justify an amendment to the federal constitution: I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. States should be free to make their own laws in this area, so long as they reflect the people's will as expressed through them directly, or as expressed through their elected representatives.  This is a significant shift from his insistence on a referendum in Massachusetts.

So at least here in Massachusetts, I don't have to eliminate anyone in the Democratic party because of their stand on marriage.  It's a refreshing feeling, and one I hope more and more voters will be able to experience.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No one will find the way out of hate and violence unless we do. Go without hate, but not without rage. Heal the world.

– Paul Monette

Anyone else find this more than a little disturbing?

This is a speech from Rick Warren, who opened the presidential inaugural with a prayer.  He has also refused to speak out decisively against the Anti-Homosexuality Law now being debated in Uganda.

Church news...

For the record, I am not an Episcopalian.  I think it's important, however, to recognize when a major church takes steps to be inclusive of LGBT people, especially when so many churches seem to do otherwise.  Too often, I believe that LGBT youth are given the message that there is no spiritual home for them.  This can be devastating, especially given the profound difficulties LGBT youth can face. So I list these events not at someone who hopes bring people "into the fold," but to acknowledge that not all churches are part of the anti-LGBT movement.

So here are four significant events in the Anglican Church this past week might give us hope.  I've mentioned two of them in past posts.

1. On Saturday, December 5,  the Episcopal Church (the Anglican Church in the United States) elected its first openly lesbian bishop.  Gene Robinson of New Hampshire was the first openly gay bishop.  Rev. Mary Glasspool was elected assistant bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles.  Following Rev. Robinson's election to bishop, the Anglican Church became fractured.  No doubt Rev. Glasspool's election will deepen that division.

2. We shouldn't simplify or assume that all are in agreement in the Anglican Church.  There are profound differences, especially between the Episcopal Church (The US Anglican Church) and the Anglican Church in other parts of the world regarding LGBT people.   One vocal opponent of the Anti Homosexuality Law proposed in Uganda (which would put LGBT to death) has been an Anglican Bishop in that country,  Canon Gideon Byamugisha.  He has stated that if Uganda moves forward and passes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, it will amount of a "gay genocide" in the country.  It's safe to assume that the more conservative Anglican Church in Africa would not be supportive of either Rev. Robinson or Rev. Glasspool, but Byamugisha's decisive opposition to the pending law in Uganda should not be understated.  Progress is relative.

3. This week Bishop Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts instructed clergy that they may  "solemnize marriages for all eligible couples, beginning Advent I.  Solemnization, in accordance with Massachusetts law, includes hearing the declaration of consent, pronouncing the marriage and signing the marriage certificate." All eligible couples, according to Bishop Shaw, includes same-sex couples.

4. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued a statement expressing concern about the pending Ugandan legislation to present the death penalty for LGBT people.  I can hope that other major religions will release similar documents.

Bottom line? We need more condamnation, both publicly and in one-on-one diplomacy, to bring the world's attention to this possible "gay genocide."  And we need to remember that not ALL churches are complacent at best, and supportive if this sort of policy at worst.