Monday, May 24, 2010

ACT NOW: Down To the Wire ... ENDA and DADT

Our best chance to address two major pieces of LGBT-related federal legislation is coming up this week.

Congress could vote on two key pieces of legislation that will mean a fairer workplace for millions of LGBT Americans. Every phone call we make now has double the impact. Here's why:

1) The House of Representatives is considering the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is time to vote this historic bill out of committee and move to a full floor vote.

2) In addition, both the House and the Senate have a real opportunity to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), the unfair policy that keeps patriotic LGBT Americans from serving openly in the armed forces - the biggest employer in the country.

A vote is expected on May 27, and Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), (202) 224-6342, serves on the Armed Services Committee and is in a critical position to make a positive difference.

For repeal to be included in the Senate version of the Defense Authorization bill, we need to reach 15 votes on the committee. And that's where we need your help - right now.

We've been asking for your help to move these Senators for months. If you've already called - call again. Urge your Senator to vote for DADT repeal this week. Just one vote on the committee could make the difference between victory and defeat.

Call today and say that waiting another year for repeal is not an option.

In summary:
  • Call your Representative and tell him or her to repeal DADT and pass ENDA now. (Simply call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121,give the operator your zip code and ask to be connected to your Representative.) Or send an email: Go to and click on"Write Your Representative."
  • Tell both your Senators to repeal DADT now. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), (202) 224-6342, is in a critical position to make a positive difference and needs to hear from LGBT folks and allies. (You can also call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) or go to and click on "Find
    Your Senators.")
  • Forward this information to your friends and urge them to call or email their members of Congress.
We need laws that protect, not discriminate against LGBT people. Don't let this moment pass without doing everything you can to stop discrimination.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Not A Pretty Picture ... ADAP Waiting Lists

Mountain Xpress over in Asheville has a great post on ADAP, as well as a cogent graph comparing ADAP waiting lists among different states:

AIDS meds assistance program in jeopardy

North Carolina, sadly, takes the cake, with the majority piece of the pie.
It's not a pretty picture, but that's why it's so important to take a look. Please click through on the link and check it out!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Got Milk? Also SUCCESS from Mon!

This Saturday, May 22, is a day of note for all LGBT and allied folks.

This is Harvey Milk's birthday, and a state government (California) has made it a holiday.

Public schools throughout California will be encouraged to conduct lessons “remembering the life of Harvey Milk, recognizing his accomplishments and familiarizing pupils with contributions he made.” Harvey is only the second Californian to receive this honor. (Conservationist John Muir was the first, and he's since got his picture on the CA quarter.)

The historical contributions of gay folks are often omitted from education. Silence and shame have prevented or obscured the LGBT identity of many historical figures.

Harvey Milk, whose motto was “come out, come out, wherever you are” (along with "I'm here to recruit you!"), is quite appropriate as the first LGBT figure to be officially recognized with a day of significance for championing gay rights.

Seeing a gay person celebrated should provide a boost to all of us, and for LGBT folks considering suicide, it may even provide a lifeline. Visiblity is critical for showing that LGBT issues are simply human issues.

UPDATE: If you took action on Monday's blog, be proud! It worked! We won! The Department of Energy released the following statement:

"Some of Professor Katz's controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill. Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department's efforts."

Thank you for helping us make this happen. It's easy to feel like online activism doesn't make a difference, and here is literal evidence that it, in fact, really does!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our Own Private IDAHo (International Day Against Homophobia); also TAKE ACTION against "proud homophobe" in the Executive Administration

Way back in 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. This happened on May 17, which in 2004 became known as IDAHo (sometimes IDAHO), the International Day Against Homophobia.

Here's a handy list of 17 FAQs on May 17.

(And here's a handy PDF of the handy list of 17 FAQs on May 17!)

This year, the focus is on ending discrimination in sports by having people support this declaration:

No form of discrimination is welcome in the sports world.

Being an athlete is not only about

reaching higher and higher physically.

It’s also about the values of justice, equality,
team unity, respect, and dignity.

Plus, it’s fighting any form of discrimination,

including discrimination based on sexual orientation.

That’s why I lend my support to

the International Day Against Homophobia.

Across the pond in Europe, for the first time ever, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Parliament, and the European Commissioner for Fundamental Rights have issued statements affirming the EU's commitment against discrimination on any grounds as a statement of solidarity for LGBT folks.

Read the statement from Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council here.
Watch a video message from Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament here.
Watch a video message with transcript from Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Fundamental Rights at Pam's House Blend here.

President Herman van Rompuy concluded his statement with the following:

"We are inspired by the sense for human dignity and the uniqueness of each person. Everyone deserves equal chances in life.

For somebody of my generation, this consecrates a remarkable evolution of public attitudes. It represents European values at their best:

  • accepting difference, not fearing it,
  • living with diversity, not fleeing it,
  • defending rights and responsibilities, not ignoring them.

    Of course, much still needs to be done, both in Europe and other parts of the world, to ensure that these mean more than empty words. We must and shall persevere in this task."

  • Sadly, here in America the president just appointed a vocal, self-proclaimed "proud homophobe," Jonathan I. Katz, to a panel working with BP on how to deal with the Gulf Oil spill.

    On his personal website at the Washington University physics department, Katz posted an essay "In Defense of Homophobia."

    Feel free to take a look at his essay, but please be warned that it's pretty awful. He blames gays for all AIDS deaths, says discrimination and homophobia are rational reactions, and likens members of the equality movement to the KKK.

    President Obama would never appoint a "proud racist" or a "proud anti-Semite" to a panel of experts in order to showcase him as one of the best minds in our country, and he shouldn't appoint a proud homophobe either.

    If you would like to sign a public letter against this appointment, you can do so here.

    One day homophobis will be the hate that dare not speak its name. In the meantime, happy IDAHo!

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Have Your Heard? A Few Steps Forward ...

    Bad news always seems to be louder than good news. We become so accustomed to hearing how opposition groups have done something to stop equality that it's easy to miss the bits where equality actually moves forward.

    The news is especially heartening when it occurs down here in the South, which is often characterized as being less progressive and inclusive.

    Recently we've had two southern LGBT-positive news items that may not have gotten the lion's share of press but are certainly positive:

    In Atlanta, a Lutheran church is reinstating a gay pastor and his partner to its clergy roster.

    Rev. Bradley Schmeling and the Rev. Darin Easler have been approved for reinstatement to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

    Schmeling had previously served as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Atlanta but was removed from the church’s clergy roster in 2007 for being in a same-gender relationship with Easler.

    Last month the church revised ministry policy documents to make it possible for “eligible Lutherans in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships” to serve as clergy.

    Now that's some real good news!

    Meanwhile, down in Florida, Leon County (which includes state capital Tallahassee) voted 5-2 to broaden its human rights ordinance to support gay folks.

    The changes provided stronger protections from discrimination for LGBT folks in four areas: general provisions, employment discrimination, equal access to places of public accommodations, and fair housing.

    Finally, though it's not in the South (of the United States, at least!), also be sure to check out the latest "Sports Illustrated," which has a profile of recently-out Welsh rugby player - called the "The World's Bravest Athlete" on the magazine cover - in the article "Gareth Thomas ... The Only Openly Gay Male Athlete."

    America doesn't have an out and proud gay male athlete yet, but his time, whoever he is, is coming.

    In the meantime, let's take pride in what we have. Baby steps forward are still steps.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    One Bad Mother (Hush Your Mouth!)

    Yesterday was Mother's Day.

    In the LGBT community, this day - along with its twin, Father's Day - has special significance. This day marks a point of special remembrance for those of us with positive, supportive parents, and it's a sad spot of bittersweet for folks whose parents did not embrace their LGBT kid.

    For gay parents, it's a point of pride: "We're parents!" It's also almost always a source of initial consternation for parents and teachers. If both parents are guys, does one take Mother's Day and one take Father's Day? What do teachers have kids do for a Mother's Day craft if there's no mother in the picture? What about trans parents?

    Fortunately, ultimately, issues of sex and gender aren't generally that troublesome for LGBT folks. I have gay dad friends who have one partner take Mother's Day and one take Father's Day. I also know couples where both lesbian parents take Mother's Day - it's two-times the work for the kid, but then they get to skip Father's Day. And my trans parental friends get the day of their target sex.

    As for schools, teachers have been handling issues like this forever, what with the supply of single and adoptive parents. On Mother's Day if there are only dads in the parental picture, generally the teachers have the kid do a craft for a special aunt, or grandmother, or even for their dad(s). The point is to honor a special person (or people). There's no need to get bogged down in the details. The goal is familial joy, not stress (though most happy families get to have both!).

    (The Washington Post has a blog article on this very topic. Also, The Guardian across the pond has an article on how more gay people are becoming parents and how that's affecting gay spending (or as they call it, "the pink pound").)

    (For the record, Kid/we took Craig's Mom (Grams) out to see a show (Charlotte's Web, which Craig is music directing at a local community theater) and then we all did Chinese afterwards. There were also flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries for Craig's Mom earlier in the week. Craig's Mom is the only matron left for us, so she reaps the full M-Day bounty!)

    For the first time in history, we've had a president include gay parents in a Mother's Day proclamation. President Obama, in yesterday's proclamation, said:

    “Whether adoptive, biological, or foster, mothers share an unbreakable bond with their children, and Americans of all ages and backgrounds owe them an immeasurable debt. Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by two parents, a single mother, two mothers, a step-mom, a grandmother, or a guardian.”

    (The bold is mine to highlight the "two mothers" bit.)

    It's just a symbolic reference, but symbols do count.

    I have a coworker who is fond of saying "Enjoy your crumbs!" whenever someone in authority makes an LGBT-positive reference but doesn't back it up with any quantifiable action for equality. It's a completely valid point, and the president's Mother Day's proclamation received quite a lukewarm reception from many gay groups, specifically for being empty words in light of lack of action on supporting ENDA and not working against DADT and DOMA. (The LGBT community seems to live a life of acronyms!)

    Now, I have more faith in crumbs. People remember words, and the more our families are put out there in front of the public, the more people will realize the terrible effects of discrimination, both individual and abstract and discrete and formalized (as in laws). It's a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be one drop less if it weren't there.

    It's a symbol, sure, but compare it to what's been there before - or hasn't. It's absence would've sent quite a different message. Sometimes a symbol can be both the message and the substance.

    We hope everyone had a happy Mother's Day!

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    So Far So Good - A Step Towards Immigration Equality

    [crossposted from Immigration Equality]

    April 29, 2010

    Senate Immigration Reform Principles Include Lesbian and Gay Binational Families

    Proposal by Reid, Schumer & Menendez Calls for an End to Discrimination Faced by LGBT Families

    A framework for immigration reform by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), includes a call for an end to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) binational families.

    The principles, which are meant to guide Congressional crafting of immigration reform legislation, specifically call for key provisions of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) to be part of a future reform bill.

    Immigration Equality hailed the inclusion of the language, which would allow LGBT citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency in the United States. Under current law, no such sponsorship is available.

    An estimated 36,000 face imminent separation or exile because of discriminatory immigration policies. UAFA is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and in the House by Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York.

    “Today’s inclusive framework is an historic step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender binational families,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “Now, it is time to turn these principles into laws. We will fight to ensure that the Uniting American Families Act is an indelible part of the immigration reform bill.”

    “The LGBT community is committed to comprehensive immigration reform that includes everyone,” Tiven added. “Our community understands, all too well, the pain of being punished and singled out for who we are. Our solidarity with the larger immigrant community is deep, and our resolve to fix our broken immigration system is real. We will work for a bill that provides a path to citizenship for the undocumented, including those who are LGBT. Time is of the essence for those facing separation or deportation, and Congress must act, urgently, to pass humane, comprehensive reform.”

    Immigration Equality also applauded the inclusion of the DREAM Act — a path to citizenship for undocumented students — in the principles released today. Earlier this week, DREAM activists who have walked from Florida arrived in the nation's capital. Two of them, Juan Rodriguez and Felipe Matos, are also a couple, and have faced additional discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The outline also includes important provisions related to family unification, including ending the unconscionable backlogs that so many families face under the current system.

    The group expressed dismay, however, over a proposal to implement a de-facto program for National ID Cards. Such a proposal, known as biometric identification, could be particularly troublesome for transgender immigrants, who struggle to get identity documents which match their correct name and gender.

    “Immigration Equality,” Tiven concluded, “is working for a bill that protects LGBT immigrants who so desperately need reform. The path forward is about keeping families together and building a system that values our country’s unique and precious history as a nation of immigrants.”