Friday, March 12, 2010

Betty White to host Saturday Night Live

It worked!  The emails, the facebook page, the letters....Betty White will host SNL on May 8!  Writes the New York Times:
Call it a victory for democracy or peer pressure, but either way it’s happening: Betty White, the 88-years-young Mary Tyler Moore and Golden Girls star, will be hosting Saturday NIght Live on May 8, a pre-Mother’s Day episode also featuring appearances from six “SNL” alumnae. Though a popular Facebook campaign helped build Ms. White’s cause, Lorne Michaels the “SNL” creator and executive producer, said Thursday that the grass-roots movement wasn’t the      sole reason for the booking. “The depth of feeling for her at the show and particularly among the women who are coming back was very deep,” Mr. Michaels said in a telephone interview. He added that he had concerns given the show’s “grueling” schedule, and as a solution invited the former “SNL” performers Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, and Molly Shannon to appear, too. Ultimately, he said, Ms. White’s age wouldn’t prevent her from participating fully. “Mind you, at our show, Pardo’s 92,” he said, referring to the announcer Don Pardo. “A couple people in wardrobe are older than him. So she’s a spring chicken in our world.”
And on that upbeat note, I'll say goodbye  until Monday when I will be blogging from Toronto.

Prom story goes national

Here's a profile in courage:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks out

Unlike some other religious figures, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spoken out against the anti-gay bill under consideration in Uganda.  In a Washington Post piece he writes:

No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?

The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.

 Words I've come to expect from this Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Adios, Rush

On his radio show the other day, Rush Limbaugh threatened to leave the country and flee to Costa Rica if health care reform passed.  Here's one response to his threat from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

No prom for this high school

The Clarion-Ledger of Mississippi recently reported that Itawamba Agricultural High School (right) in Fulton, Mississippi has canceled its prom because one young woman, Constance McMillen (left), was planning to take her girlfriend as a date.  McMillen, who is openly gay, now fears retaliation from her peers.  Said McMillen, "Oh, my God. That's really messed up because the message they are sending is that if they have to let gay people go to prom that they are not going to have one," she said. "A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this, so in a way it's really retaliation."

School officials told McMillen last month that she could not bring her sophomore girlfriend to the prom and could not wear a tuxedo. The school then circulated a memo prohibiting same-sex dates.  When asked by McMillen and the ACLU to drop its prohibition on same-sex couples, the school canceled the prom and encouraged a private party, where it would be legal to deny McMillen admission.

McMillen has spent her entire life in Fulton, a city of about 4,100 people in the northeast corner of the state. Her grandmother, Dale McMillen, said she supports her.

"I've always tried to teach my children and my grandchildren that if you believe in something you need to stand up for it," she said.

The debate has attracted the attention of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative social policy organization based in Orlando, Fla., which offered the district free legal services to fight for the policy.

"We view this as part of a broader picture," Liberty Counsel attorney Stephen Crampton said. "It's not, sadly enough, about one young lady's desire to bring her date to the prom."

Crampton said attempts to override policies such as the one in Fulton are part of an agenda to force legal recognition of same-sex couples. Crampton noted Mississippi is one of a number of states still with antisodomy laws.

"The district might be motivated by a desire to prevent the ultimate conduct that is presumptively illegal in this state," he said.The school district left her out of the yearbook, but Sturgis' stand attracted national media attention and acclaim among gay rights groups.

What an amazing young woman.  This is one of those stories that will make people shudder when they read about it in history books.  And by the way, hasn't Stephen Crampton heard of Lawrence v. Texas?  That US Supreme Court ruling made anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional in any state.

Prom Update

Dan Savage is reporting that life at school has become quite tense for Constance McMillen after the School Board canceled the prom rather than allow her to bring a female date.

Mississippi ACLU legal director Kristy Bennett said school officials are trying to make a villain out of McMillen. Bennett said McMillen attended school today, but was "a little stressed out." She left early  and said that it is pretty tense. A lot of students won'tlook her in the eye," she said.

Savage and some others are organizing an email campaign to persuade the School Board to reschedule the prom.  If you are so inclined, here are some email addresses:

Superintendent Teresa McNeece
School Board Member Jackie Nichols
School Board Member Harold Martin
School Board Member Clara Brown
School Board Member Tony Wallace

Johnny Weir not "family friendly" enough for Stars on Ice


Glaad reports that sponsors have “refused to allow” American figure skater Johnny Weir to join the Stars on Ice Tour because they deemed him “not family friendly.” While Weir — a three-time national champion — has never “officially announced his sexual orientation, he has garnered a significant amount of LGBT fans” and is also known for his flashy costumes. Weir won an online poll that asked fans who they wanted to see in the tour, but Stars on Ice seems to have barred him because of his “perceived sexual orientation.'

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meredith Viera's Welcome and Sincere Response

First, the video.  Meredith Viera is known to be an ally to the gay community, so many were surprised to see this rather homophobic exchange between her and the cast and crew of Hurt Locker.

But unlike George Stephanopoulos, who was even more homophobic in his interview with Ewan McGregor a few weeks ago, Ms. Viera recognized that the exchange could have been offensive to some folks.  Shortly after the show, she released this statement:

“During an interview with the cast of The Hurt Locker on Monday, I turned to actor Anthony Mackie and made a joke about “man hugging” in reference to a hug he and fellow actor Jeremy Renner had shared a few weeks earlier on our air. It was meant to be lScreen Shot 2010-03-10 At 12.16.21 Pm-1ighthearted, but some were offended by what they believed to be a homophobic comment. That was never my intent, but that doesn’t matter. Words are extremely powerful and should never be chosen lightly, even in a lighthearted moment. I apologize to any and all that I offended. My support of the gay and lesbian community is longstanding and well documented. It has not and will never waver.”  

Thanks, Meredith.  If only other folks would follow your lead in recognizing homophobia, owning it, and reaching out as you have done.

(Thanks to Good As You.)

Just for fun...

I'm sorry. What year is this again?

Here's a story from  Andrew Alexander of The Washington Post about a photo of to men (gasp) kissing!

Readers react to photo of two men kissing

Powerful photographs can have lasting impact, and a Post photo of two men kissing is an image that many readers can neither forget nor accept.

The photo, which ran on the newspaper's front page and online last week, captured Jeremy Ames and Taka Ariga kissing outside D.C. Superior Court on the day that the District began accepting license applications for same-sex marriages.

Almost immediately, I began hearing from upset readers. That’s normal when controversial photos appear in The Post. The same thing happened recently when The Post published disturbing images of Haiti earthquake victims. Typically, the complaints quickly subside. With last Thursday’s photo, they continued into Friday, through the weekend and even today. Early this morning, before D.C. Superior Court began issuing licenses to same-sex couples who had applied, a caller phoned to warn that he would cancel his Post subscription “if I see another photo of men lip-locking.”

A few of the readers have engaged in rants, often with anti-gay slurs. One called me to complain about “promoting a faggot lifestyle.” Another complained about the photo in an e-mail to the two Post reporters who wrote Thursday’s story about the licenses: “That kind of stuff makes normal people want to throw up. People have kids who are being exposed to this crap. I will be glad when your rag goes out of business. Real men marry women.”

But most simply said The Post had offended their sensibilities by publishing the photo, especially on the front page.

Ann Witty of Woodbridge wrote to say she had canceled the Post subscription she has held since the 1960s.

“I am 65 years old and I realize that the world is changing rapidly – much more rapidly than I would like it to,” she e-mailed. “While I realize that the Post must report on these changes – even the ones with which I do not agree – I feel that the picture on Thursday morning was an affront to the majority of your readership. It is not something that I want coming into my home. I believe that even your editors know that it would have been better placed in the Metro section and that it would have mitigated its impact to do so.”

Wrote Lee Miller of Columbia: “I would appreciate it if your cover pictures would not be so disturbing where my kids can see it easily on the kitchen table... please don’t shove this “Gay” business in our face. This is something that should have shown up on an inside page or two (without the picture).”

In comments to the ombudsman’s call-in line (202.334.7582), one reader said, “the picture of two guys kissing makes me cringe.” Another called it “ridiculous,” adding: “Put it on page 10 or page four, put it in the paper, but I do not like it right there where I can’t avoid looking at it.”

Many threatened to cancel their Post subscriptions, and more than two dozen did. Post circulation vice president Gregg Fernandes said that late last week 27 subscribers canceled, specifically citing the photo. In contrast, The Post reported only two cancellations immediately after last July’s ethics uproar over its ill-advised plan to sell sponsorships to off-the-record “salon” dinners at the publisher’s residence.

Did the Post go too far? Of course not. The photo deserved to be in newspaper and on its Web site, and it warranted front-page display.

News photos capture reality. And the prominent display reflects the historic significance of what was occurring. The recent D.C. Council decision to approve same-sex marriage was the culmination of a decades-long gay rights fight for equality. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the District. The photo of Ames and Ariga kissing simply showed joy that would be exhibited by any couple planning to wed – especially a couple who previously had been denied the legal right to marry.

There was a time, after court-ordered integration, when readers complained about front-page photos of blacks mixing with whites. Today, photo images of same-sex couples capture the same reality of societal change.

Praying for a media takeover

A little scary.....I guess all those religious cable channels and radio stations just aren't doing the trick.

How much do we love Cynthia Nixon?

Thanks to Pam's House Blend for this video of Cynthia Nixon on anti-equality senators in the New York State legislature.

Husbands and Husbands

 Beyond cute.  Apparently, this clip was taken after Thanksgiving dinner by one of the husbands.

(via americablog)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An outrageous spoof

This was all a spoof -- yet no one knew it.  The purpose was to highlight anti-gay bigotry in Utah.  People -- including the press -- thought this was a real press conference.  How did the woman say some of those lines with a straight face?  Thanks again to Joe.My.God.  I'll be back in Thursday.

First DC same-sex weddings take place today

Last week, same-sex couples could get licenses.   This week it's marriage.  Here's a moving video of one of the first couples to wed.  (Thank you, Huffington Post.)

Movement for Harvey Milk stamp is reporting that efforts are underway to create a stamp in honor of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk.  The hope is that a famous image of Milk by painter Jim Leff will be on the postage stamp.  Facebook has launched a group called "Honor Harvey Milk with a US Postage Stamp" that has almost 14,000 members. The San Francisco Board of Supervisers  unanimously voted to urge the US Postal Service to commemorate Milk with a stamp in 2005.

Students respond to Virginia's Atty General

Last we I wrote about the Atty General Cuccinelli (left)of Virginia who had requested that all state universities remove anti-discriminatory policies that protected LGBT students and staff.  It's nice to know that students have begun to fight the Atty General.

The Washington Post is reporting that more than 3,000 people have signed a facebook page denouncing the ruling.  Although most of Virginia's colleges and universities are on spring break (perfect timing, Atty General Cuccinelli), letters, emails, and phone calls are still being made.  "I've never gotten so many e-mails from students wanting to do something," said Brandon Carroll, 21, president of the student government at Virginia Tech. He said any erosion in gay rights at state universities is "going to make us lose top students. It's going to make us lose top faculty."

Students at one of the few state universities that is still in session are planning a rally this week to protest the Atty General. What's encouraging about some of the response is has brought both Democratic and Republican student groups together to bring about change.

A growing number of industry leaders have also lined up against the directive from Cuccinelli, some portraying it as a threat to the quality and competitiveness of Virginia's higher-education system.

I'll keep you posted.

Catholics for Marriage Equality

The press doesn't often report on religious people who support marriage equality.  Catholics for Marriage Equality is just such a  group.  They have begun a website to promote marriage equality among Catholics and others.  Here's a quote from the website, as noted by Pam Spaulding on her blog:

As Roman Catholics, we differentiate between sacramental marriage and civil marriage. Therefore, we perceive that same-sex civil marriage poses no threat to our Church. While we respect the authority and integrity of the Church in matters of faith, our prayers and discernment have brought us to a new openness on this issue. We do not ask the Church to perform same-sex marriages. We do implore the Church to honor the States’ prerogative to authorize civil marriages for our gay and lesbian family and friends.

Pope remains silent on "kill the gays" bill

Pope Benedict XVI (left) recently met with Catholic officials from Uganda at the Vatican to address issues facing the African country. One would assume that this might be the opportunity to discuss the bill before the Ugandan legislature that would put gays in jail for life or put them to death.  Surely stopping the murder of a group of people would be a Christian value.

Not for this pope.

As the website notes,  "Pope Benedict XVI has not historically been one to keep quiet on issues facing sovereign nations. Most recently he has criticised the UK for trying to enact comprehensive equality legislation, yet still expects the country to foot the bill for his lavish visit. Spanish and Canadian legislators have been taunted and threatened with denial of communion or even excommunication for supporting equality for gays and lesbians, or access to abortion. He has called the parenting of children by lesbians and gays, child abuse."

The Pope's silence on the issue --especially when he has the Ugandan clergy as an audience -- is inexcusable.  Here's a quote from the website Jewish Virtual Library about the Catholic Church's stance during the Holocaust: 
Pope Pius XII's (1876-1958) actions during the Holocaust remain controversial. For much of the war, he maintained a public front of indifference and remained silent while German atrocities were committed. He refused pleas for help on the grounds of neutrality, while making statements condemning injustices in general. Privately, he sheltered a small number of Jews and spoke to a few select officials, encouraging them to help the Jews.
While the scope of the possible "kill the gay bill" in Uganda and the Holocaust can't possibly be compared, we can certainly acknowledge the similarity of innocent people punished or being put to death because of who they are.  And, unfortunately, we are seeing another similarity: the Pope's silence in the face of these atrocities.

It seems that the Catholic Church has learned nothing from history.

Monday, March 8, 2010

An acknowledgement from State Senator Roy Ashburn

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that State Senator Roy Ashburn (right), who was arresed on DUI charges after leaving a gay nighclub with an unidentified man, has acknowledged that he is gay. 
"I'm gay," Ashburn told Inga  Banks of KERN radio  in an interview this morning.  "Those are the words  that have been so difficult for me for so long."
Does Ashburn  have any regrets about voting against every single piece of gay rights legislation that came before him?  Apparently not.  He says his votes were a reflection of how the voters in his district would have wanted him to vote.
Geoff Kors (left), Executive Director of Equality California, sees things a different way, calling Ashburn's comments "a lame excuse."  He went on to say that legislators from Ashburn's area have voted for LGBT rights in the past.  "It seems that there have been a number of politicians who seem so concerned that it (being gay) will impact their carers that they not only hide, they vote against LBGT rights to squash rumors about their sexual orientation."

A classic Oscar moment

Who'd have thought that the award for Best Documentary Short Subject would provide the best cringe-worthy moment of the evening?  Apparently Music by Prudence producer Elinor Burkett and director-producer Roger Ross Williams aren't speaking to each other.  According to Ms. Burkett, when Mr. Williams ran to the stage to accept the award, his mother (yes, his mother) stuck her cane out and blocked the aisle so Ms. Burkett couldn't get to the podium.  She must have done the pole vault into the aisle, because she made it up there in time to hip check Mr. Williams away from the microphone in a moment worthy of the best Carol Burnett skits.

(The clip takes a little while to download, but it's worth the wait.)

Rachel Maddow

Keep thinking of big picture

US-MapBox Turtle Bulletin has a pretty uplifting take on the same-sex marriage battle in the United States.  According to the site, same sex partner rights are available to nearly half of the country. In the words of Timothy Kincaid: “So [the National Organization for Marriage] can proclaim ‘victory’ when they have an election in California or Maine, but this ball is rolling and the momentum is in the direction of recognition.”


The map to the right shows all the states (in color) that provide same-sex couple benefits. 


The big picture is good.  We need to keep remembering it.                

The Five Minute Oscars

For those of you who didn't watch last night, here's a five minute recap of the Oscars:

No "Will & Grace" for Florida

Thanks to Joe.My.God. who led me to Michael Bender's story at the Palm Beach Post. 

It looks like movies with gay characters won't be welcome in Florida anytime soon.  It's common for states to offer tax credits to attract film makers.  The economic benefits of film making are huge: just think of all the restaurants, hotels and retail that would benefit.  What isn't so common is for a state legislature to dictate just what sort of movies can be given these tax incentives.

A bill before the Florida legislature would provide millions in tax incentives to film makers as long as there are no gay characters.  The wording is a little more discreet than that, although not much more.  The bill states that movies that movies with "nontraditional family values" would be prohibited from receiving funds.

Senator Stephen Precourt (photo to the right....very far right), a supporter of the bill whose district includes Walt Disney World, said he was not targeting the gay community by including the term "nontraditional family values." But when asked if shows with gay characters should get the tax credit, he said, "That would not be the kind of thing I'd say that we want to invest public dollars in."

Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger said nontraditional family values could include anything from "drug abuse to excessive drunkenness to homosexual families."

Hmmm.  What year is this again?  I thought comparing being gay to drug abuse went out with the Trent Lott era.

No big Oscar surprises....

Well, the Oscars provided no big surprises last night.  The Hurt Locker was the big winner, with six awards, including the very first for a female director in Oscar history.  (Yes, this is 2010.) Here are the winners of the major categories:

BEST PICTURE: The Hurt Locker
BEST DIRECTOR: Katherine Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christopher Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
BEST EDITING: The Hurt Locker 

Until next year, when I hope there's at least one "I didn't expect that" moment.

Why the need to do something like this?

Larry O'Dell of The Associated Press is reporting that Virginia's attorney general has advised the state's public colleges that they don't have the authority to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying only the General Assembly has that power.  Writes O'Dell:

The letter sent by Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli (left) to state college presidents and other officials Thursday drew swift criticism from Democrats and gay rights activists.

The Republican advised college governing boards to "take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law."

The attorney general said his letter merely stated Virginia law, which prohibits discrimination because of "race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability," but makes no mention of sexual orientation.

Cuccinelli said the criticism was coming from people who have been frustrated in their attempts to change the law.

"None of them suggest our reading of the law is wrong. It's people who don't like the policy speaking up because it's their opportunity to go on the attack," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg said colleges are bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

A spokesman for the Family Foundation of Virginia, which has opposed expanding state anti-discrimination policies to protect gays, said the criticism of Cuccinelli's action is unwarranted.

"My understanding is all he's done is essentially ask the universities to follow the law," spokesman Chris Freund said. "It's a little perplexing to see people respond the way they have."

This sort of thing seems completely unnecessary, fueled only by ill will.  It will be interesting to see how the universities respond.  I'm hoping to see more than a few student protests.