The last 365 days have brought me from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to the New York Blade, EDGE Publications, Gay.com and even the Advocate. What a year it has certainly been! These 10 stories helped shape the year that will soon pass into the annuls of LGBT history and time...
The House passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in November without gender identity and expression. The Human Rights Campaign stood alone as the only national LGBT rights organization to back the transgender-exclusive bill despite repeated pledges and assurances to the contrary. This nearly unilateral endorsement sparked widespread outrage among local, statewide and national LGBT activists and their allies. The HRC's own credibility remains the most glaring casualty of this very public schism which exposed an ever-growing rift between the lobbying organizations and those on whose behalf it repeatedly claims to advocate.
The Logo and the HRC-sponsored Presidential forum in Los Angeles in August made history as the first televised event to feature leading Presidential candidates responding to questions about marriage for same-sex couples and other LGBT issues. The composition of the panel -- HRC President Joe Solmonese, lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge and journalists Jonathan Capehart and Margaret Carlson -- sparked controversy alongside the separation of the candidates themselves during the two-hour forum. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson rather tragically asserted homosexuality remains a choice. But the forum, despite its problems, will go down in the history books as a watershed moment in the movement for LGBT rights in this country.
The Logo and HRC forum is one small sliver of the broader Presidential campaign which captivated and even galvanized LGBT politicos, activists and reporters alike throughout the year. Congressman Dennis Kucinich [D-Ohio] and former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel [D-Alaska] remain the only leading White House hopefuls to support full marriage for same-sex couples while a number of leading LGBT figures, such as New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have backed U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.]
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.], came out in support of same-sex nuptials in June while U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] sparked controversy in October with his "Embrace the Change" tour in South Carolina that included self-described "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin.
Republican White House hopefuls have also faced scrutiny. Social conservatives remain largely skeptical of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's previous support of civil unions and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during his previous Senate and gubernatorial campaigns in the Commonwealth. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to back away from his previous pro-LGBT overtures during his two terms in City Hall while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee sparked widespread consternation earlier this month after previous comments suggesting Washington should isolate people with HIV and AIDS came to light.
International LGBT Human Rights Abuses
LGBT people in Iran, Russia and other countries around the world face continued oppression and even death in 2007. The Iranian government executed Makwan Moloudzadeh, 21, on Dec. 5 on charges he had sex with boys as a young teenager. This executions comes on the heels of the arrest of more than 80 people who attended a birthday party in the city of Isfahan in May
Ultra-nationalists, members of the Russian Orthodox Church and others attacked LGBT activists and politicos with eggs, stones and fists as they attempted to hold a gay Pride celebration in Moscow in May. British gay activist Peter Tatchell, German MEP Volker Beck and Right Said Fred front man Richard Fairbrass were among those attacked in the Russian capital is Moscow police apparently failed to respond to the assaults. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov repeatedly described the march as "satanic" and banned the march but openly gay Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe was among those who condemned the violence.
New Jersey became the third state to extend civil unions to same-sex couples after a bill Gov. Jon Corzine signed into law took effect in February. New Hampshire lawmakers passed a similar bill in April that allows gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions beginning on New Year's Day.
Oregon and even Iowa saw advances towards full marriage for same-sex couples while Massachusetts lawmakers killed a proposed state Constitutional amendment to ban gay and lesbian nuptials in the Commonwealth in June. The vote came more than three years after same-sex couples began to legally marry after the landmark Goodridge decision.
GOP Hypocrites Fall Hard
It remains a fact that hypocrites often fall hard; but no scandal seemed to generate more jokes (or grimaces) than the arrest of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig [R-Idaho] inside a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after he allegedly solicited an undercover police officer inside a restroom in June. Craig, who repeatedly supported the Federal Marriage Amendment and other anti-LGBT legislation, plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge but maintained he is 'not gay.' Bloggers, such as Michael Rogers, and newspapers, including the Idaho Statesman, brought evidence to light which seemed to suggest otherwise based on interviews with escorts and others who claimed the anti-LGBT social conservative slept with them. Craig remains in the U.S. Senate despite his announcement to resign shortly after his arrest came to light.
Transgender Immigrant with HIV Dies in Federal Custody
Victoria Arellano's tragic and untimely death during her incarceration at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in San Pedro, Calif., in July remains one of the most under reported stories of 2007. Arellano, 23, died after ICE officials allegedly denied her medication to temper HIV-related side affects during her more than two-month detention at the Southern California facility. Bienestar and other organizations across the country have rallied behind Arellano's family, who plans to file a lawsuit against ICE and other officials in the coming year. It is also worth noting that Arellano was the third detainee to die in San Pedro since 2004.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell's Legacy
The so-called anti-gay industry arguably continues to lose its clout among political, social and even economic spheres and it lost one of its founders in May when the Rev. Jerry Falwell suddenly died from a heart attack.
Falwell publicly launched his anti-LGBT career in the late 1970s with his support of Anita Bryant's efforts to repeal a South Florida gay rights ordinance. He routinely enraged LGBT activists with his categorization of AIDS as God's condemnation of homosexuality and his assertion gays and other progressives caused the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks. Falwell also denounced Tinky Winky based on his belief that the purple Teletubby was gay. Absurd? Absolutely. But the outspoken minister certainly secured his influence on the social, political and even economic fabric of this country for more than three decades.
Isaiah Washington Sparks Controversy, Debate on Hate Speech
Former "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington sparked widespread outrage among several LGBT activists and organizations after he used an anti-gay slur during an interview with reporters after the Golden Globe awards in January. He reportedly used the same slur against openly gay co-star T.R. Knight during a confrontation in Oct. 2006.
GLAAD and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network immediately blasted Washington. He soon apologized for the slur and agreed to appear in a PSA. The incident, which both organizations repeatedly milked for their own purposes, received widespread coverage throughout the first half of 2007. ABC decided not to renew his contract on "Grey's Anatomy" in June despite his very public 'mea culpa.'
Ahmadinejad Denies Homosexuality
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one of the world's great provocateurs in 2007 but his denial of homosexuality in Iran during a speech at Columbia University in September sparked widespread ridicule among observers -- and especially those in attendance.
The story would remain purely comical if it were not for the fact LGBT Iranians face widespread oppression, persecution and even death in their own country. Boy in Bushwick blogged about Ahmadinejad's speech under the headline "Iranian President Mocks Reason at Columbia." Words often speak for themselves.
Monday, December 31, 2007
The last 365 days have brought me from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to the New York Blade, EDGE Publications, Gay.com and even the Advocate. What a year it has certainly been! These 10 stories helped shape the year that will soon pass into the annuls of LGBT history and time...
Friday, December 28, 2007
As Boy in Bushwick reflects upon the year that has soon to pass, the news of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination in Rawalpindi yesterday came as a shock. She was, arguably, as corrupt as any politician in her country she hoped to replace next month. But Bhutto was a beacon of hope for many Pakistanis who sought a better future for themselves and their country.
Her assassination is probably not a shock to observers and even close advisers who repeatedly warned her that her life was in danger. Bhutto is now a martyr for the cause for which she and her supporters fought so hard. Let us hope that Pakistan does not descend into further chaos or even civil war. This path would go directly against Bhutto's life and legacy.
Monday, December 24, 2007
The more than two feet of snow on the ground here in Manchester, New Hampshire, is slowly melting on this Christmas Eve but the pre-primary campaign remains in full-swing. The Concord Monitor issued its anti-editorial of former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday while holiday ads featuring U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] and his family, U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.] and John McCain [D-Ariz.], former U.S Sens. Mike Gravel [D-Alaska] John Edwards [D-N.C.] and former Congressman Ron Paul [R-Texas] are among those running on local television. My personal favorite remains that featuring former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Santa Claus wishing New Hampshire voters a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.
I can't help but conclude the former federal prosecutor is not on Chris Cringle's 'nice list' this year with the indictment of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, revelations he used public security funds while in Southampton on weekend trysts with his then-mistress (and now third wife) Judith Nathan and scrutiny over his private business dealings. Giuliani may be able to charm many Americans with his (real or perceived) leadership on Sept. 11 but serious questions remain about his professional and personal conduct to which a good PR team or even Kris Kringle arguably cannot find a solution.
Here's to a happy holiday!
Friday, December 21, 2007
The fallout over the IN Newsweekly staff revolt continues to unfold as contributors and even a former long-time editor bring their concerns about HX Media's failure to pay, editorial considerations and other issues to light. Below is a recap of the letter former editor-in-large Fred Kuhr and others sent to IN Newsweekly editor William Henderson, HX Media CEO Matthew Bank and others associated with both letters with embedded links (above) to additional postings and other information. Stay tuned...
December 8, 2007
Mr. Matthew Bank
230 W. 17th Street
New York, NY 10011
Dear Mr. Bank,
We would like to request a meeting with you to discuss our concerns about IN Newsweekly.
Increasingly, over the past several months, we have become worried about the paper's content, its overall focus, and future direction. We believe the overall quality of the publication, its journalistic standards, has suffered serious damage. Nothing less than its reputation and standing within the New England region is at stake.
For example, IN used to feature coverage from all six New England states. Now we're down to two - Massachusetts and Rhode Island - and on a hit- or - miss basis. Essentially, the paper has written off a considerable chunk of our geography, which was a distinct strategic advantage.
Perhaps some historical context will be helpful. For decades, Boston has been a two gay newspaper town. And IN's position is unique. Under two previous editors, In Newsweekly, over time, carved out a reputation for balanced, fair, accurate, in a word – quality, journalism. Editors and writers were not beholden to factions or cliques of individuals or groups. Nor did the reporting and opinion fan flames of controversy, with sensational coverage or “gotcha” journalism.
In Newsweekly is all about journalism, not LGBT activism, although the paper's opinion pages – praised in the past for having four full pages of columns and commentaries, never shied from staking out strong local, regional, and national stances. In sum, the paper's tone and content gave the LGBT community a voice it can hear and over time came to trust.
As contributors, we search for the truth, are respectful, and seek to minimize harm. We are professionals.
Current staffers are also professional in their Herculean efforts to meet deadlines, get the product out the door, onto the streets, and up on the web. Given diminished financial and human resources, we are amazed that they are still able to produce a weekly paper.
Nonetheless, we are very concerned about the paper's most recent focus on nightlife/arts coverage, with a dramatic departure from local reporting on hard news. For years, Chuck Colbert, perhaps the paper's most seasoned reporter and columnist, covered religion, politics, and government. Because of freelance budget cuts - we are told - he now pens only a one full-page weekly column.
Don't get us wrong: Colbert Reports is a good idea, one that developed from a collaborative conversation between writer and editor. But the under utilization of a talented and popular journalist is a disservice to readers who read IN precisely for the local angle and news content.
Editor-at-Large Fred Kuhr, another popular and widely read journalist, once contributed editorials, music reviews, and other features on a regular basis. Now, Fred only writes a column every few weeks.
From our many years of experience, we know that gay New Englanders are not predisposed to read out-of-towners. We acknowledge Washington and New York as major media centers. But more than enough happens in LGBT news, religion, government, politics, and community events throughout the region to fill a weekly issue to the brim. To rely on nationally syndicated writers or Associated Press stories is to relegate IN to irrelevancy and obscurity. Local readership simply will not take the paper seriously anymore.
The year 2008 is a presidential election year. Right now, candidates are out and about all over New Hampshire in search of votes, including LGBT support. Because of our regional strategic advantage, IN could be all over presidential politics. We are not, and that is a missed opportunity.
The front page of the current issue (December 5) features stories on gay friendly holiday shopping and Absolut vodka. While those stories do have a place in the paper, we cannot understand how they merit placement on the front page.
Meanwhile, the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective held their annual fundraiser, which attracted 450 people and benefited HIV/AIDS programs. The story ran as a “brief.” Surely that story merited serious consideration for page one.
In Rhode Island, an openly gay man, Frank Ferri, won election to fill a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives. Again, the victory ran as news brief. Yet, Mr. Ferri is the nation's first legally married (same-sex) person to win elective office. That's not only news: the story is big news. Joe Siegel is a resident of the Ocean State and is more than capable of covering that state's significant LGBT community.
Steve Desroches, our Provincetown correspondent, left the paper in August. Paul Olsen, our longtime Vermont correspondent, is gone. Maine receives little if any coverage. Yet Ogunquit is a major tourism draw, and Portland has a large active gay community.
In Connecticut, New Haven and Hartford have substantial gay communities.
For years, freelance correspondents have been the backbone of In Newsweekly's regional success story. Why have so many been left to fall by the wayside?
Several weeks ago, we learned of yet more severe budget cuts for freelance writers — down to $200 a week from a paltry $400 beforehand. That drastic cut comes after a series of other reductions.
In the current issue, however, we find advertisements for a nightlife editor and an assistant to the business manager.
As freelancers, we wait months and months for pay and back pay. We don't understand why HX lags so far behind in payment to us, while placing ads for permanent staffers. An ad ran for several weeks for a Boston-based writer to cover politics, government, and entertainment. We would like to know the reasons for this.
Now, we learn HX is hosting a 10-year celebration of quality journalism at the New York Blade. But we notice a parallel development between the NY Blade and IN: radical decreases in regional coverage, budget cuts for freelance writers, the shift in emphasis from solid news to entertainment: for those reasons and others, we are requesting a meeting with you and the local Boston staffers.
We look forward to meeting you in person for what we believe will be a mutually advantageous conversation.
The Christmas holidays have finally arrived in full force with a slew of holiday parties and festivities over the last few days... but yet more has emerged in the on-going saga between former and arguably soon-to-be-former IN Newsweekly contributors and their former (and soon-to-be-former) parent company IN Newsweekly.
HX Media reportedly owes former IN Newsweekly editor-at-large Fred Kuhr $2,000 in back pay while other writers who have ceased contributing to the weekly have indicated they plan to pursue possible legal action if they don't receive their back pay in a very expedient timetable. HX New York editor Brandon Voss and his assistant editor, Mark Peikert, are among those with bylines in IN Newsweekly's latest issue. It seems as though the resignations and decisions to stop contributing until back pay is paid continues to have an impact. Stay tuned...
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Current and former IN Newsweekly contributors and editors have succeeded in getting the word out about their list of grievances with HX Media, their CEO Matthew Bank and editor William Henderson with hits on Qweerty, PageOneQ and other blogs.
Boy in Bushwick's sources indicate that the publisher of the Washington Blade plans to spend a week in Boston to observe the paper and hopefully attempt to resolve these issues. Bank has so far failed to respond to the letter contributors send to him earlier this month but the questions about editorial integrity, a significant shift from news to nightlife coverage and current postings for a nightlife editor and an assistant to the weekly's business manager -- with a $200 per week freelancers budget -- remain more or less unanswered.
Another interesting fact emerged when a source inside HX Media said the company recently relocated to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's former office on West 35th Street in Manhattan's Fashion District. Coincidence? Probably. But this move, along with a recent party thrown to commemorate the New York Blade's 10th anniversary, confirms to many observers that their priorities remain out-of-line. Their own track record in Boston and elsewhere arguably confirms this unfortunate reality.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Most people admittedly probably don't want to talk about the sex lives of people over 50 outside of dated chicken hawk and troll cliches used by many within the gay community. A coalition of HIV and AIDS organizations hope to change this stigma with a new campaign designed to raise awareness of how the epidemic affects older gay men as I reported in Gay.com earlier this week. It will appear across New York City but it remains a small part of an overall effort activists and service providers maintain is long overdue. Stay tuned...
With more and more Americans turning 50 each year, a growing number of people with HIV and AIDS are entering their golden years. HIV and AIDS service organizations are struggling to meet the needs of their aging clients.
The Gay Men's Health Crisis, Service & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America and the Brooklyn, N.Y., based-Griot Circle launched the Eldersexual Campaign in New York on Tuesday, December 11, 2007, as a way to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS among people over 50. The initiative features four separate advertisements that will run in 15 weekly and two monthly publications across the Five Boroughs. Thirty-nine telephone booths across Brooklyn and Manhattan will also display the ads.
GMHC Institute of Gay Men's Health director Dr. Bill Stackhouse told Gay.com he remains confident of the campaign's success. "It's really about raising awareness and facilitating dialogue in New York City that HIV and AIDS is an issue for people over 50," he said. "It's a fun campaign with a gay sensibility -- adjusted to the general public."
Stackhouse further estimated that one-third of GMHC's total clientele are over 50 while SAGE executive director Michael Adams added that his New York-based organization serves more than 2,000 LGBT elders each month. "People, thankfully, are living longer lives," Adams said. "It's only natural we would be developing programming around HIV issues."
Older people face concerns about possible interactions with HIV and AIDS drugs and medications specific to treating diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases and conditions often associated with aging. Social security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits are other concerns with which SAGE and other HIV and AIDS service organizations assist their clients. "There are a whole range of issues that older people face," Adams said. "Some [are issues that] all older people face and some [are] particular to LGBT seniors. HIV is becoming increasingly another issue older LGBT people [face] -- it's becoming an increasingly important part of the mix."
Akira Ohiso, programming coordinator for the Ryan White Over 50 Program at Housing Works, agreed. His organization maintains an outreach program in the East New York section of Brooklyn that provides housing and other basic services to people with HIV and AIDS over 50 in the crime-ridden neighborhood. Ohiso further pointed to poverty and long-held attitudes, such as that older people are not sexually active, which he contends remain serious barriers to those seeking treatment. "There are still a lot of myths and biases towards the aging community," he said.
Activists also pointed out HIV and AIDS symptoms often mirror those commonly associated with aging. Corey White, an outreach coordinator with the Griot Circle, said this concern ranks high among the older men of color who attend the support group he facilitates. "Many seniors go without being treated because of the similarities of HIV and aging," he said. "That's occurring across the board."
White added that many Griot Circle clients are simply unaware of how to talk about HIV and AIDS with their medical providers or possible symptoms of which they should be aware. He also works with group attendees on how to receive adequate medical care. "[These are] some of the conversations we have in our group," White said.
The Boston-based National Association on HIV Over Fifty estimates that up to 15 percent of all AIDS cases in the United States occur among people over 50. Rates of infection were more than twice as high among older people than young adults between 1991 and 1995.
New York City Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo [D-Mott Haven] proposed $1 million last year to fund training to teach medical providers how to treat older New Yorkers with HIV and AIDS and education initiatives at senior centers across the city. But activists maintain government officials can do more to curb HIV and AIDS among people over 50. "There hasn't been a lot of programming and funding put in place for older people," Ohiso said. "This is a vulnerable community within a vulnerable community."
Adams agreed. "The success is people are living longer and that's great news," he said. "But now [that we] have achieved success, we have to recognize this population needs HIV programming and support."
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Shooting ducks in a barrel is an all too appropriate metaphor to use in describing how former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's previous statements regarding homosexuality, HIV and AIDS continue to come to light now that he is the front runner ahead of the Iowa caucuses. The latest assertion came from an Associated Press article in which the GOP social conservative maintains his support of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
"I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherently illegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government," Huckabee said. "I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can post a dangerous public health risk."
Those within the movement for LGBT rights will undoubtedly continue to assert American voters rejected anti-LGBT rhetoric last November with the Democrats taking control of Congress. Huckabee himself will almost certainly try to claim these comments were taken out of context but the above statement cannot cloud his vile homophobic sentiments which are coming out now that he's on the campaign trail. Social conservatives may privately (or even publicly) rejoice. But most fair-minded people will hopefully reject them and any candidate who perpetuates them to court a small but vocal fringe group.
Monday, December 10, 2007
You know it is the height of the pre-caucus and primary season when our so-called front runners are all to quick to 'clarify' statements from their political past. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who now leads Iowa polls ahead of its Jan. 3 caucuses, caused widespread outrage among LGBT activists this past weekend with his 1992 assertion that the government should quarantine people with AIDS during his failed U.S. Senate bid. The Republican social conservative denied he implied he would support isolating people with AIDS during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.
Not to be outdone by his GOP rival, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" he feels homosexual acts are sinful as opposed to a person's sexual orientation. [Boy in Bushwick openly asks whether Giuliani feels clandestine trips to Southampton to visit his now current wife with a taxpayer funded NYPD security detail falls into the same 'sinful' categorization.] I guess politicians will pull out all the stops in the name of political pandering... but a more accurate term is damage control on a national stage. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Almost every issue contains within it a certain degree of politics as voters prepare to cast the first votes in the 2008 election cycle in Iowa and New Hampshire. And HIV and AIDS is unfortunately no exception as depicted in my Gay.com story posted earlier this week. Stay tuned...
With less than a month until Iowans cast the first votes in the 2008 presidential campaign, activists across the country continue to call upon White House hopefuls on both sides of the aisle to address the AIDS epidemic on the campaign trail.
Housing Works, the Gay Men's Health Crisis and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago released the findings of a survey of 16 leading Democratic and Republican presidential candidates late last month ahead of World AIDS Day that asked them to detail their positions on federal funding of needle exchange programs, appropriations for so-called science-based prevention programs and other issues that are part of a comprehensive national AIDS strategy. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.], former U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.], U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-Ohio] answered the questions. U.S. Sen. Joe Biden [D-Del.] provided a written statement, while the leading GOP candidates failed to respond.
AIDSVote.org also details each candidate's positions on HIV and AIDS-related issues throughout their political careers.
"More than ever, the American public is calling for a meaningful health care reform which includes bold leadership in the area of AIDS," GMHC Chief Operating Officer Robert Bank said in a statement. "Voters need to know what the candidates will do to fight AIDS when determining their readiness to be president."
David Ernesto Munar, vice president of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, agreed. "AIDSVote.org wants to make sure that whoever moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January 2009 will make ending the AIDS epidemic a top priority," he said. "It's a matter of life and death."
The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, GMHC and Housing Works revealed the findings of their survey a day after Clinton announced her plan to combat HIV and AIDS in the United States and around the world during a campaign stop in South Carolina. It includes doubling the amount of money allocated to HIV and AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health to $5.2 billion annually and a pledge of $50 billion to combat the global epidemic by 2013.
Obama and Edwards announced their plans earlier this fall. AIDS Action Executive Director Rebecca Haag, who is also a member of Clinton's LGBT advisory committee, applauded the Democratic candidates' efforts to highlight HIV and AIDS during an interview with Gay.com from the Democratic National Committee's fall meeting in Northern Virginia.
"I am very happy to report that every major Democratic candidate has come out in support of a national AIDS strategy," she said. "Each of the major candidates [Clinton, Obama and Edwards] has now issued their own platforms which go beyond the national domestic epidemic. From a presidential point of view, all Democrats are out on the trail talking about HIV."
More than an estimated million people live with HIV and AIDS in the United States while 40,000 people test HIV-positive each year. People of color comprise nearly half of all new infections while HIV and AIDS was the leading cause of death among women of color between 25 and 34 in 2004.
The National Black Justice Coalition will include HIV and AIDS-related issues in a voter guide it plans to disseminate ahead of the election. NBJC Chief Operating Officer Earl Plante stressed that a candidate's position on these issues could determine his organization's presidential endorsement. "We are willing and able and at their disposal to engage on the HIV and AIDS issue," he said. "We think it's long past due in terms of having a dialogue around increases in treatment, care, prevention and research."
Haag conceded Republican candidates have not given HIV and AIDS the same attention on the campaign trail as their Democratic counterparts. But she remains hopeful, however, that her organization and others across the country will continue to successfully raise these issues among all leading White House hopefuls.
"We have always had bi-partisan support for this issue," Haag concluded. "We believe the American people want this issue solved [and] we will continue to press the candidates."
Log onto www.aidsvote.org or www.nationalaidsstrategy.org for more information.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's so-called change of heart on marriage for same-sex couples, Don't Ask, Don't Tell and other LGBT issues have continued to dog him on the campaign trail. But add yet another Mitt-Flop to this impressive list of hypocritical campaign pandering with the news that he continued to employ a landscaping company at his Belmont, Mass., mansion which employed undocumented immigrants.
The Boston Globe reported that Romney fired the landscapers less than a week after he blasted former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's immigration policies in Gotham during his tenure in the 1990s. The newspaper raised these exact questions last December but Romney claimed in a statement released last night that he had only learned about the status of the company's employees from the Globe itself. Right Mitt! Politics remains, above all, local. Romney's continued double speak proves that he will do anything to secure a few votes on the campaign trail. He can try to smooth-talk people with his charisma, his Ozzie & Harriett-made photo ops with his family but his record and latest in a series of Mitt-flops speak for themselves.
Monday, December 3, 2007
With all of the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States and around the world in response to terrorism and other issues, it remains admittedly refreshing to read about Suhail Abual Sameed's decisionto come out during an Islamic scholar conference in South Africa today.
Islam contains both conservative and progressive factions as does Christianity and any other organized religion in the world. The mainstream media seems to focus most of its attention on those within the Islamic tradition to commit acts of terrorism and oppression against women, LGBT people and even non-Muslims on behalf of Allah. Suhail Abual Sameed proves yet again that one can reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation.
Friday, November 30, 2007
A man reportedly with a bomb took hostages inside the Rochester, N.H., offices of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. WMUR in Manchester reported a man in his 40s entered the North Main Street office shortly after 1 p.m. The man, who is reportedly mentally ill, later released two women but it remains unclear as to whether more hostages remain inside the downtown Rochester office.
Local and state police remain engaged in a tense stand-off with the suspect. Clinton, who is not currently in New Hampshire, cancelled a speech at the Democratic National Committee's fall meeting in Virginia upon learning of the situation.
New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary is Jan. 8 and candidates from both sides of the aisle have descended upon the Granite State en masse in the weeks until voters head to the polls. New Hampshire residents pride themselves on the retail politics which invade their state every four years. More than half a dozen candidates visited my alma mater Manchester Memorial High School ahead of the 2000 primary and I even volunteered for U.S. Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] in his downtown Manchester office.
This situation has undoubtedly rocked the Clinton campaign as they eagerly await a peaceful outcome. It also sends a collective chill throughout those in New Hampshire on both sides of the aisle who devote their time and energy to the success of a grassroots-based tradition in the state. Current and former Granite Staters of all political persuasions currently await for this stand-off to come to a swift and peaceful conclusion.
Update [12:50 a.m.]: Police arrested Leeland Eisenberg of Somersworth shortly after 6 p.m. Friday as the last of his three hostages was escorted away from the office. Senator Hillary Clinton traveled to New Hampshire to meet with them and to thank local law enforcement officials for ending the stand-off peacefully.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Gay-owned and oriented businesses remain part of the broader community impacted by the Broadway strike as my article in EDGE examines today. Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers reached a settlement to turn on the lights once again on Broadway late last night. But the economic impact remains staggering. A collective sign of relief can undoubtedly be heard today not only in the Theater District but across the city.
With the nearly three-week Broadway strike over, theaters and businesses - restaurants and bars in the Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen - remain all too eager for the curtains to go up once again. But the walkout’s economic toll remains staggering.
Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares, told EDGE in an interview hours before Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers announced their settlement that ended the strike, said it had a direct impact on recent fundraising efforts. Theaters traditionally appeal for money during a six-week fundraising blitz each fall. Viola estimated Broadway Cares alone lost an estimated $300,000 and $350,000 in donations each week during the strike.
"That’s huge," he said. "It will have a direct effect on our ability to make grants after the first of the year. The strike on Broadway will be felt across the country: In a food bank in Pittsburgh, at an LGBT center on West 13th Street, at a health clinic in San Francisco."
Broadway Cares has turned to the Internet to attempt to fill this fundraising gap. And it’s 19th annual Gypsy of the Year competition, which generates more than 20 percent of the organization’s annual budget, to Dec. 17-18. But Viola was quick to stress, however, Broadway Cares is one of many organizations and businesses the strike has hit hard.
"The strike has been very difficult for the entire neighborhood," he said. "Everybody has taken a huge hit over the 20 days of this strike. We are a part of an entire community affected by the strike."
Robert Guarino, general manager of Marseille on Ninth Avenue and West 44th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, agreed. He told EDGE that business at the French and Moroccan bistro is noticeably lower because of the strike. Guarino added Restaurant Row (West 46th Street) and other restaurants along bustling Ninth Avenue have experienced a similar decline in business.
"It’s frustrating to not be as busy as we’re used to being this time of year," he said. "It’s sad for the restaurants and for the theaters."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYC & Company and the Times Square Alliance announced a week-long dining discount program, which began on Nov. 17, to lure diners back into the Theater District’s restaurants. The city lost an estimated $2 million a day in revenue during the strike. But local bars say it had little impact on their bottom line.
Vlada Lounge bartender Damon Gravina said he noticed more locals and an earlier crowd at the popular West 51st Street bar during the strike. He added, however, this patronage change is not uncommon during the busy holiday season.
"I don’t think we’ve been as deeply affected as the restaurants have," Guarina said.
Socrates Diamant, manager of Barrage on West 47th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, agreed.
"It really hasn’t made much of a difference to us," he said. "We do get people to and from shows but it’s not a huge portion of our business."
Diamant was among those in the neighborhood who eagerly awaited a settlement.
"Everybody has taken a hit here in more than two weeks of lost income," Viola added. "It really comes down to thousands of individuals who have been affected by it."
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tangier's medina (old city) from my hotel last November
I preface this blog with affection for the Moroccan people who so warmly welcomed me into their country during my trip to Tangier and Fes last November. It ranks among the most fascinating (and beautiful) places to which I have traveled... but news that officials arrested a gay man in the northern city of Al-Qasr Al-Kabir who was reportedly getting married saddens me.
Al-Arabiya reported a court sentenced the man and five others to jail time for attending the lavish two-day wedding. A Moroccan newspaper later reported local protestors caught and beat him. Homosexuality remains illegal under Moroccan law but gays and lesbians have become very common in Tangier, Marrakech and other popular tourist destinations across the country. What happened to this man remains an unfortunate reminder of the rampant homophobia and intolerance which remains in the majority of the world. One may be all too quick to ridicule Moroccans -- a Muslim, developing country in North Africa which was a French protectorate until 1956 -- for persecutin gays and lesbians within their society. But Morocco remains no better (or no worse) than the majority of the world which arguably fails to view gays and lesbians as people worthy of basic humanity, respect and dignity.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Civil unions represent progress to many activists within the movement for LGBT rights towards full marriage for same-sex couples. In fact, this position remains the national movement's de facto stance in its talking points, messages and other public statements. Yet this idea, which came into being after the Vermont Supreme Cout mandated lawmakers in the Green Mountain State to extend recognition to gay and lesbian couples in 1999, raises several problems as detailed in my feature in Gay.com. Nothing remains cut and dry. And this issue remains squarely among them.
With New Hampshire's civil unions law slated to take effect within weeks, the University of New Hampshire is struggling to address how the statute will impact the benefits it currently offers to the partners of its gay and lesbian employees. The state has announced it will no longer offer domestic partner benefits, but local activists contend they remain necessary because of health care, adoption and other concerns.
"Our position is that you should not end DP benefits because not everyone is going to enter into civil unions," New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Executive Director Mo Baxley told Gay.com in a recent interview from her office in Concord, New Hampshire. "Those are very legitimate issues."
UNH officials declined to comment, but they are among employers in New Hampshire and other states that have had to address these concerns as legislation extending legal protections and recognition to gay and lesbian couples takes effect.
Carol Buckheit, associate director of the Hartford, Conn.-based Love Makes a Family, said a number of same-sex couples called her organization with concerns about their DP benefits after the state's civil unions law took effect in October 2005. She did not identify specific cases in which employees lost their benefits. But Buckheit maintained that these concerns highlight the need for same-sex nuptials.
"What we're seeing is a patchwork of laws across the country: domestic partnerships, civil unions and marriage in Massachusetts," she said. "States are struggling with how to deal with each other's patchwork of laws [and] in our view the solution is marriage."
Garden State Equality Executive Director Steven Goldstein echoed this conclusion. New Jersey's civil unions law, which took effect in February, did not automatically upgrade the domestic partnerships of same-sex couples who registered after former Gov. James E. McGreevy created a registry in 2004. Goldstein estimates nearly 1,800 gay and lesbian couples have taken advantage of the new law. But he quickly concluded it fails to provide the full range of protections that marriage affords.
"More and more couples are waiting for marriage because they see that New Jersey's civil union law is a total fiasco, failing to work to provide all the rights [and] benefits of marriage," Goldstein said.
Basic Rights Oregon executive director John Hummel took a more nuanced approach in response to the domestic partnership bill Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law in May. He conceded the statute only extends state benefits to same-sex couples that their heterosexual counterparts automatically receive through marriage. But Hummel told Gay.com he feels it benefits both businesses and gay and lesbian couples whose employers and municipalities may not have recognized their relationships.
"It has been a patchwork quilt of coverage with some companies and some cities and counties providing domestic partner benefits and others that didn't," he said. "It would be beneficial for businesses in the state because it would be one rule."
Hummel added BRO is planning to distribute literature and other information about the law once it takes effect on January 1.
"I know there is a lot of excitement among same-sex couples who have waited so long for their rights," he said. "We are preparing materials for people so they can understand their new rights under the law."
Oregon, California, Vermont and Hawai'i are among the handful of states which either legally recognize same-sex couples or extend legal protections and benefits through domestic partnerships and civil unions. Massachusetts remains the only state to allow gays and lesbians to marry. Freedom to Marry executive director Evan Wolfson affirmed the conclusion that marriage remains the only solution for same-sex couples.
"The creation of a separate state-level legal status, whether called civil union or partnership, unnecessarily complicates the lives of the families and the businesses and others they deal with," he told Gay.com in an e-mail. "The easiest and right solution is to end exclusion from marriage itself, rather than constructing new legal mechanisms that present equal treatment and inclusion."
"As more of these stories become public, we're going to be back in a couple of years... and finish the job," she said.
Friday, November 23, 2007
It's a cold and very blustery 33 degrees here in Manchester. My mother and I spent the afternoon bundled up inside the house watching the People's Court and other court shows... and it's even snowing up in the White Mountains and northern New England today.
Thanksgiving was quite uneventful here in New Hampshire with my sister cooking turkey, mashed potatoes and other turkey day goodies at her new condo (down the street from the house in which I grew up.) I did spent the night at one of Manchester's four gay bars. Ima Cumming and other drag queens provided some early holiday cheer to the 30 or so patrons who braved the cold to come out. These queens are certainly not on the caliber of Porsche and others who grace the Fire Island, Manhattan and Key West stage. But they provided one native Granite Stater a few laughs on an otherwise quiet Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The blogosphere (and even some activist circles within the movement for LGBT rights) are abuzz over NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams asserted marriage is 'under attack' during a news segment about Queen Elizabeth's 60th wedding anniversary on Monday. Some have drawn parallels between the anchor and his parent company, which is owned by General Electric. Others have pointed out this phrase as part and parcel of the anti-gay industry's repeated assertions against marriage for same-sex couples. And yet more simply downplay the assertion.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation reached out to Williams and his producer in response to the phrase. Williams himself posted a reaction on his blog. The lesson learned from this 'unintentional' error remains that words do matter. Williams himself knows this fact as a veteran journalist. He should have known better regardless of his explanation of why the phrase was included in the segment. Hopefully he will do better next time.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Today marks the ninth annual Day of Remembrance to commemorate those killed because of anti-transgender violence and hatred. Activists across the country plan to hold vigils and other commemorations to mark this day.
"Anti-transgender hate violence remains disturbingly pervasive in our society," National Gay & Lesbian Task Force executive director Matt Foreman said in a statement on his organization's Web site. "While we must continue to fight for hate crime laws that punish perpetrators of these crimes, and employment nondiscrimination laws that rightfully allow transgender people to keep their jobs and stay off the streets where they are more vulnerable to attacks, we must also continue to help every American understand who transgender people are and how anti-transgender bias leads to discrimination and violence. Until no more of our transgender friends and family are lost to senseless hate violence, we must not rest.”
This year's Transgender Day of Remembrance comes on the heels of the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act without gender identity and expression on Capitol Hill. A handful of activists in New York plan to protest the Human Rights Campaign today in response to its decision to support this trans-exclusive legislation. The argument remains whether this action is appropriate on a day set aside to remember those who have lost their lives simply because of who they are. Transgender people remain arguably the most vulnerable in terms of discrimination and the lack of basic humanity and dignity they face from the broader society. We must not forget that and, as Foreman pointed out, must work to eradicate these atrocities perpetuated against our own.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Politics remains the consistent blood sport in New York with special interest groups across the city continuing to secure a seat at the ever-partisan table. This trend certainly holds true among local LGBT political organizations in the Five Boroughs as I reported this week in EDGE New York. Many Democratic activists have set their sites on reclaiming the state Senate next November after Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs] blocked a bill to extend marriage to same-sex couples in July. Gay Republicans are also eager to advance the LGBT agenda through the perennial log jam that is Albany. Stay tuned!
With New York politicians already jockeying up support for their upcoming re-election (or election) campaigns, local LGBT political continue their quest to secure their place at the partisan table.
Lambda Independent Democrats member and long-time Brooklyn gay politico Alan Fleishman is among those who contend these clubs will play a pivotal in upcoming local, statewide and even national elections. The former Democratic district leader for Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope and other so-called Brownstone neighborhoods first became involved with the city’s highly territorial political scene in the late 1980s with former Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman’s successful New York City Comptroller campaign. Fleishman was also among the gay politicos who blasted Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s endorsement of former Councilmember Noach Dear [D-Borough Park] for Civil Court Judge in September.
Fleishman was quick to point out to EDGE in a recent interview that Dear opposed the city’s 1986 gay rights law. He added LID members have also joined Councilmember Letitia James [D-Fort Greene] and other local officials in opposing the sprawling Atlantic Yards project. But Fleishman added LGBT political organizations have a responsibility to point out the anti-LGBT positions among those who seek public office.
"We’ve pointed out when politicians have strayed from being friends of the LGBT community," Fleishman said. "When issues impact our community, we make sure we get involved."
Staten Island Stonewall co-founder Rosemary Palladino agreed. She added her organization and others across the city play an additional role through voter registration and even raising money for candidates who support marriage for same-sex couples and other LGBT issues.
"Our mission is to be sure Staten Island politicians understand that there is something in it for them to support us," Palladino said. "We certainly intend to play an active role."
Lew Goldstein of the now defunct Lambda Democrats of the Bronx was equally as pragmatic. He predicted LGBT political clubs will factor into the Democrats overall strategy to regain control of the state Senate next November. Republicans maintain a slim majority but Goldstein contends LGBT New Yorkers will help secure a Democratic take-over.
"We elect those who are with us... and make sure they don’t lose in the primary," he said. "Our community is very, very important in all areas."
David Verchere, president of Log Cabin Republicans of New York City, said his organization and gay Republicans in the city and across New York State will continue to help elect LGBT-friendly lawmakers in both the Senate and the state Assembly. And he added gay GOPers will continue to play an important role in lobbying Albany to support marriage for same-sex couples and other LGBT legislation.
"We’re essential advocates for our community’s legislative agenda," Verchere said.
Senate control remains the primary issue for many LGBT politicos after Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs] blocked a bill in July which would have legalized gay and lesbian nuptials. The Empire State Pride Agenda and other local LGBT organizations continue their lobbying efforts in Albany but many LGBT politicos contend marriage, the Gender Education Non-Discrimination Act and the Dignity in All Schools Act would advance if Democrats reclaim the Senate.
LGBT voters also account for an estimated 15 percent of the total Democratic primary turnout. This growing voter bloc could have an impact on openly lesbian Council Speaker Christine Quinn [D-Chelsea] and other probable 2009 mayoral contenders.
Melissa Sklarz, a board member for National Stonewall Democrats, for sees that LGBT political organizations will play an even more important role in local, statewide and even national politics this election cycle than in previous campaigns. She added New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid has further energized these groups.
"You will see a huge, huge involvement," Sklarz said. "It’s a great opportunity for queer people to get involved and make a difference in our lives to help out in 2008."
Fleishman readily agreed.
"We’re still going to continue to be involved in the process and continue to make the best judgment calls we can for the LGBT community," he said.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
With the fourth anniversary of the landmark Goodridge decision to extend marriage to same-sex couples in Massachusetts coming up on Sunday, perhaps it is necessary to reflect upon the broader movement for gay and lesbian nuptials since the Supreme Judicial Court issued its historic ruling. This reflection came up during a lengthy conversation with a good friend in Boston who is writing about the racial, class and masculinity implications with regards to this issue.
The movement appears to remain all too quick to highlight the gay or lesbian who lives in the suburbs with 2.5 kids, a dog and a picket fence in their lobbying efforts on Beacon Hill, in Albany and other state capitals across the country. Rarely does one see an economically disadvantaged same-sex couple (of color) speaking about the impact of their inability to get married during a press conference outside a public housing project in a crime-ridden neighborhood. A lesbian couple with two foot mohawks wearing 'Dykes on Bikes' t-shirts are an equally rare sight with regards to efforts to change hearts and minds in support of marriage. These categorizations are obviously dramatic but they point to the conclusion that the movement for LGBT rights and particularly the movement for marriage for same-sex couples has embraced conformity in order to achieve its goals. This conformity is obviously politically sound policy but both movements have arguably sacrificed its non-conformist tradition in order to advance an issue to which the majority of Americans [including a sizable portion of the LGBT community] remain opposed.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Fresh from the contentious debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act within the movement for LGBT rights, openly gay Congressman Barney Frank [D-Mass.] has announced his support for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential bid. Frank, who will join the campaign as an economic adviser, is the latest LGBT politician to back the former First Lady's White House aspiration. But the question remains: Do LGBT politicos and activists back Clinton for her positions or rather to simply be part of a popular campaign.
Those who have endorsed former U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.], U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] and other Democratic candidates will almost certainly point to the latter. Others may quickly point out that everyone -- especially politicians -- want to be part of a winning team which may provide lucrative career opportunities for them and their supporters. And yet others may actually stand by a particular candidate based on their positions.
Clinton remains arguably the Democratic establishment candidate which party loyalists will almost certainly back. LGBT politicos are no exception to this rule. It remains clear, however, marriage for same-sex couples will not become the wedge issue it did during the 2004 presidential campaign. This reality provides Clinton a rather convenient cover under which she can declare her support for civil unions as opposed to full marriage. Frank and other LGBT politicos certainly recognize this politically convenient position. But they have put this issue on the back burner for the sake of their party and their end goal of reclaiming the White House in 2008.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
It perhaps comes as no surprise that an Iranian politician has expressed support for the torture and even execution of gays but this abominable declaration reportedly took place in May during a meeting with British MPs at a peace conference. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's now famous homosexuality denial during a speech at Columbia University in New York in September remains the most glaring example of the Iranian regime's views but Mohsen Yahyavi remains the highest-ranked politician to sanction capital punishment for gays.
This issue is certainly nothing new in Iran. The hanging of two reportedly gay youth in the city of Mashhad in 2005 sparked widespread outrage among human rights and LGBT organizations around the world. The European Union (and member countries) have repeatedly criticized Iran's human rights record with regards to gays and lesbians while the United States appears more concerned with the country's plan to supposedly develop nuclear weapons. This issue is most certainly one for concern. But Washington arguably should focus the same attention on Tehran's gross violation of human rights -- in this case the state-sponsored gay executions. Gay Iranians' lives literally hang in the balance.
Friday, November 9, 2007
The debate surrounding the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to rage among LGBT activist circles (and organizations within the broader movement for LGBT rights). In conversations with several sources over the past couple of days I have reached the following conclusions: ENDA's passage amounts to a historic victory for (gay and lesbian) Americans because it is the first time lawmakers on Capitol Hill has passed a comprehensive piece of gay and lesbian-specific legislation but the Human Rights Campaign has failed to adequately explain its decision to endorse a transgender-exclusive ENDA to a largely skeptical LGB and especially T constituency.
HRC and other national LGBT organizations must constantly explain their existence to a largely indifferent LGBT public and to core activists and donors who support their work through their time, activism and especially money. The lobbying organization, for the sake of argument, has its pulse in tune with how Capitol Hill works. But most people outside of that Washington realm don't. Those outside the Beltway become outraged without understanding the rationale behind a particular decision, strategy, tactic, etc. Hastily prepared press releases, heavily messaged blogs and strategic sound bites in the case of ENDA are simply not enough to convince these skeptical activists who, among other things, have demanded HRC President Joe Solmonese's resignation. Cooler heads often prevail but HRC has a lot of explaining to do in order to possibly defend its decision to back a trans-exclusive piece of legislation. I am cynically holding my breath!
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
As lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate ENDA on the House floor as I write, the Human Rights Campaign remains in the cross hairs of many LGBT activists within the movement after it announced its support for the transgender-exclusive version of the bill yesterday. HRC President Joe Solmonese told the Associated Press in an interview that ENDA without gender identity and expression could eventually lead to legislation which protects transgender people.
"Sometimes with these sorts of complex and weighty legislative fights, the best way to move towards the ultimate piece of legislation you are looking for is to do it by degree," he said to the news agency.
Solmonese's own board last month voted to reaffirm a 2004 declaration in support of a trans-inclusive ENDA after Congressman Barney Frank [D-Mass.] reintroduced two versions of the bill which separated sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Freshman Democrats on Capitol Hill also expressed concern to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] and other blue leaders that they could not vote in favor of a trans-inclusive ENDA because of concerns related to their re-election bids. Politics remains a series of compromises but HRC's sudden change of heart undoubtedly raises a series of troubling questions among LGB and especially T activists who maintain their support for a trans-inclusive ENDA.
National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling acknowledged the politics at play in her almost daily ENDA update today. But she could barely contain her disappointment at HRC and other non-LGBT organizations which endorsed the trans-exclusive ENDA.
"That official abandonment of transgender people by these organizations yesterday may have therefore changed the vote count but we do not know," Keisling opined. "Some members of Congress will still make a principled NO vote and LGBT people should rush to support them."
HRC's decision arguably confirms the long-standing belief among transgender activists (and their supporters) that the lobbying group has never actually taken their concerns to heart. It also appears to confirm the conclusion the position that HRC fails to take into account the interests of the so-called rank and file LGB and especially T American. President Bush has already indicated he plans to veto ENDA. But HRC will certainly remain in many activists' cross hairs over its decision to officially endorse transgender exclusion in a historic piece of legislation.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Boy in Bushwick read Jamaica Observer columnist Betty Ann Blaine's column “Educate or socialize… is there a gay agenda?” this morning with particular interest. She writes about the controversy surrounding a textbook recommended by the Jamaican Dept. of Education which concludes same-sex partners can form families but she is quick to single out the "marching brigade of homosexual activism" and its broader "implications for national policies and legislation."
Blaine further expands upon this conclusion to equate so-called homosexual activism to the "group of men" who "gathered together around a table in Europe and decided to carve up the entire earth for their own self-interest... and then to enslave the majority of people on the planet." In other words she concluded so-called homosexual activism in Jamaica (and the world for that matter) would produce the same legacy that European colonialism left behind on Jamaica and other former colonies and overseas territories across the world. This argument is a disingenuous attempt, at best, to justify continued discrimination and even persecution against LGBT people. Colonialism caused innumerable hardship against Jamaicans and others whom the European powers subjugated for centuries. This legacy remains largely in place through grinding poverty and other social, political and economic inequalities. But to equate the struggle for LGBT rights to colonialism remains nothing more than a feeble attempt to deflect attention away from problems which remain largely unchecked.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Have we, as LGBT Americans, finally reached a point where pink historians can definitely declare a post-coming out era? This question is one which I have repeatedly pondered over recent weeks as the result of numerous conversations with friends, sources and other contacts across the country. Los Angeles Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez appears to examine the same question in a column published in today's edition. So have we embarked upon a new era?
Perhaps. My roommate Ben came out to his New Jersey classmates before he could legally drive a car. Other sources have told me there is no such thing as coming out among those under 18. I came out in May 2001 upon completion of my freshman year at the University of New Hampshire. I was 19. The experience truly changed my life. LGBT people, for better or worse, have become much more visible since 2001 through "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples in Massachusetts in 2004, former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey's scandalized coming out the same year and a litany of other high-profile events. Many LGBT people in New York, West Hollywood, San Francisco, the South End and other LGBT meccas may yawn at these developments. But Rodriguez correctly pointed out in his column that 45 states (or 49 depending upon one's perspective) have laws on the books which bar marriage (or full marriage) for gay and lesbian couples. Some may live in the post-coming out era. But millions upon millions of LGBT people are across the country still yearn for the chance to come out of the closet and be who they are.
Friday, November 2, 2007
It's a cool early November afternoon here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as I wait for my friend Michele at a coffee shop. I spend the morning visiting my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, and developed a deep sense of nostalgia for the place which inevitably provided me the personal strength to come out more than six years ago. The buzz surrounding U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's visit has come and gone. The autumn leaves are finally dropping after a very warm October. And college students in Birkenstocks, puffy vests and gray sweatshirts traverse the tranquil Northern New England campus.
I met UNH's LGBT coordinator and reconnected with a number of former colleagues and classmates with whom I worked and studied during my undergraduate academic career. New York remains my home with no immediate plans to leave. But I must admit it was a bit refreshing to return to such a tight-knit and committed LGBT community in Durham. Drama and personal politics certainly remain. It was refreshing, however, to talk with activists (and all-around good people) who don't immediately point out their personal agendas or immediately blast those who don't subscribe to it. A true breath of crisp November air!
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I'm once again back in New Hampshire after my mother's successful surgery earlier this week. The primary season remains in full swing without a concrete date for the first-in-the-nation contest as of yet. My mother handed me a Hillary Clinton brochure which touts her support of the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) which President George W. Bush vetoed last month. Another flier advertised New Hampshire Veterans for Obama (my father was in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet offensive). All of this propaganda (call it what it is) continues to bombard New Hampshire voters ahead of the primary. It appears as though marriage and other LGBT issues will not factor into the contest even though the state's civil union bill takes effect just days before the expected primary date. The inundation of candidates upon the small (and typically chilly) New England state will certainly continue with or without LGBT issues on the radar screen.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Saudi King Abdullah's visit to the United Kingdom has caused a row among activists and even politicians for the kingdom's human rights abuses.
Human rights activists and others, such as Conservative Party leader David Cameron, have used King Abdullah's state visit to the United Kingdom this week to highlight Saudi Arabia's less than stellar (to say the least) human rights record. The Policy Exchange used the king's trip to London to accuse the reclusive regime of providing British mosques with materials which allegedly urges among women, gays and other so-called enemies of Islam. The kingdom's persecution against gays (and women for that matter) are widely documented by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations across the world. But the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union must walk a fine line with the Saudis because of their dependence on the kingdom's vast oil resources. This excuse does not, in any way, justify the relative silence the West has arguably shown towards these abuses. But it does highlight the broader geo-political and economic considerations that must be addressed in future negotiations.
On an arguably related note, the Jamaica Gleaner reported today that a textbook recommended by the island's Department of Education concludes same-sex partners can actually form families. Jamaica arguably remains one of the most homophobic countries in the world with routine violence and persecution among LGBT people on the Caribbean island. The Jamaica Gleaner itself reiterates this attitude in its coverage of the curriculum.
"The administrators of the prominent institution also pointed out that the teacher told her class that homosexual unions were not socially accepted," the article read.
Some observers may maintain it remains far too easy for LGBT activists (and bloggers) in so-called developed countries in Europe or North America to immediately criticize the Saudis, the Jamaicans and others who maintain these homophobic attitudes for their own benefit. This could stem from power dynamics established through colonialism, anti-Islamic sentiments and other social, political and economic factors. But the problem clearly remains. The Jamaica Gleaner's own reporting proves this point without a doubt.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's "Embrace the Change" tour of South Carolina has come and gone but the controversy surrounding the inclusion of self-described "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin continues among Boy in Bushwick readers and activists alike.
More than one source or contact flat out dismissed those who have described Obama as anti-LGBT for this (and other) rather public PR disasters. They are quick to point out Obama's extensive legal advocacy and his continued evolution on LGBT issues during his political (and arguably personal) life. This controversy arguably suggests otherwise. He can choose an openly gay singer to headline the tour as a last minute attempt to deflect controversy. But his actions will speak much louder than mere sound bites and strategic headliners. Let's hope he takes this lesson to account as the primary and caucus campaign heads into the final stretch.
Friday, October 26, 2007
I read the article in this morning's New York Times about a Baltimore man who filed a lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church for protesting his late son's 2006 funeral with particular interest. The Rev. Fred Phelps and his family, who comprise the vast majority of the extremist Kansas-based congregation, are clearly outside of what the vast, vast majority of people in this country consider acceptable. The sect, however, certainly knows how to generate publicity for itself with its very public protests against gays, lesbians, victims of Sept. 11 and even American soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
These protests are certainly heartbreaking (and obviously infuriating) for the grieving family members who must face these as they lay their loved ones to rest. Most people of good faith will not dispute this fact. But the question remains: Why does the mainstream media fail to give as much attention to Phelps and company's rabidly homophobic-driven actions. Most Americans are quick to identify themselves as patriotic despite their positions on Iraq, the Bush administration and other political hot button issues of the day. These protests clearly strike a nerve at the heart of this 'nationalistic' idealism. Gays and lesbians have long suffered heartache and suffering at the hands of this group. Perhaps it's futile to give it additional attention (as I'm doing with this blog entry). But the parallels must be drawn.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The Human Rights Campaign, the National Black Justice Coalition and other LGBT organizations and activists have blasted U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] for including a so-called 'ex-gay' gospel singer in his weekend gospel tour in South Carolina.
Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who claims God allegedly turned him away from homosexuality, is among those scheduled to perform in Obama's "Embrace the Change" tour. The Democratic presidential hopeful announced late yesterday that he added a gay minister to the tour in an apparent response to this criticism. This move is nothing more than an attempt to pander to a base of potentially influential voters who remain somewhat skeptical of Obama's sincerity with regards to LGBT issues.
The Rev. Irene Monroe has repeatedly blasted Obama's opposition to marriage for same-sex couples because of his religious convictions. Openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson has backed his campaign. Others remain somewhat skeptical. Obama is certainly charismatic with all of the right talking points and sound bites to energize a Democratic base which has clearly grown tired of the Bush administration. The question remains: Does Obama have experience (and frankly the credibility) to successfully court LGBT voters ahead of the primaries and caucuses. The answer to this question remains in doubt as this latest controversy has arguably shown.
As a life-long Red Sox fan, I completely understand the impact sports can have on people's lives. Red Sox Nation is rejoicing today after its beloved team clobbered the Colorado Rockies at Fenway last night. But the World Series perhaps provides the perfect context in which the movement for LGBT rights can begin to address underlying homophobia and other long-standing concerns within organized athletics.
It remains highly courageous for an LGBT athletes, especially those in the pros, to come out as sources repeatedly told me for my sports feature posted on EDGE yesterday. Sports remains a significant part of many people lives in the United States and across the world. Yet it remains abundantly clear LGBT people have, by and large, been excluded by these important institutions. This needs to change!
Former National Football League defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo fought many a battle during his nine years on the professional gridiron. But Mr. Aloha reached a personal crossroads in 2002 when he came out.
The father of two is now a regular guest at gay events across the country. He sang the national anthem at the Gay Games in Chicago last summer. Tuaolo attended the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Washington gala earlier this month. But he explained to lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and hundreds of gay football players from across the country who attended the Gay Superbowl 7 opening ceremonies in lower Manhattan on Oct. 5 that his activism is personal.
"For 33 years of my life I was in the closet," Tuaolo said. "Never in a hundred years... I thought I would be here with you today."
The LGBT movement has embraced Tuaolo and other former gay athletes in recent years as it devotes more time, resources and even staff to address homophobia and other LGBT issues in sports. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation became the latest organization to join this bandwagon with the launch of its sports initiative last month.
The media watchdog chose former Sports Out Loud editor Ted Rybka to lead the program. He told EDGE in a recent interview from his New York office that the initiative is an extension of GLAAD’s overall mission.
"When someone goes on television or in the newspaper and says some outrageous item... [GLAAD has] programs to get out into the community to ensure that the coverage is fair, accurate and inclusive," Rybka said. "The sports media program is going to do the same thing in the sports media world."
The program, which remains in its infancy, will facilitate meetings with reporters and editors who write within the estimated $200 billion per year sports industry. It will also sponsor panels, such as that which featured Tuaolo and out former NFL player Dave Kopay earlier this month in New York, and other programmatic events to discuss how homophobia and other issues impact LGBT athletes. Rybka quickly concluded GLAAD’s foray into sports simply makes sense.
"Every newspaper (or every news organization) has a sports desk," he said. "It’s so important LGBT athletes and fans... are included in those."
Sports Out Loud editor Buddy Early agreed. His Phoenix-based magazine recently published its third issue. Early praised GLAAD and other organizations for their increased focus on sports.
"The more we look at these issues the better," he said. "It can only help me as a gay man, a gay sports fan and as someone who works in gay media."
Helen Carroll, sports project director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, joined the San Francisco-based organization in 2001 after it launched its own sports initiative. A former National Collegiate Athletic Association athletic director, she was featured in the documentary "Out for Change: Addressing Homophobia in Women’s Sports." Carroll has conducted sensitivity trainings for the San Francisco 49ers and has attended workshops, conferences and Final Four tournaments across the country.
She maintained WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes’ coming out in 2005 shed new light on LGBT issues in sports. Carroll added NCLR’s lawsuit against former Penn State women’s basketball coach Rene Portland for alleged discrimination against a former player because she thought she was a lesbian provided an additional opportunity for national LGBT organizations to highlight these issues.
"That [case] ended up giving us two years of really being able to put a lot of media around what is this issue; what does it look like; what it is," Carroll said. "That story really captured the attention and interest of so many people around the [United States.]"
NCLR reached a confidential settlement with Portland. Cyd Zeigler, Jr., co-founder of OutSports.com, conceded homophobia within the locker room remains a serious problem which he hopes the LGBT movement can begin to address through a long-term strategy.
He argued GLAAD and other organizations’ sports efforts can also tackle stereotypes of LGBT athletes.
"A lot of people - gay or straight - who hear about gay sports want to hear about sex between players, the drag queen on the sides and the funny stuff," Zeigler said. "For gay people who play the sport it is about the sport. They want to win."
Tuaolo, Swoopes, former NBS star John Amaechi, former tennis stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and former Olympic diver Greg Louganis are among the small but growing number of professional athletes who have come out in recent years after their retirement. There are no openly gay male athletes who currently play in the professional leagues, however, while homophobia in sports continues to make headlines.
Retired NBA point guard Tim Hardaway sparked widespread controversy earlier this year after he told a Miami sports talk show host that he hates gay people in response to a question about Amaechi’s coming out. The NFL fined then-Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter $10,000 after he used an anti-gay slur against Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., after a December 2006 game. And some LGBT activists criticized Swoopes for apparently downplaying her sexual orientation after she came out.
Zeigler concluded the fact gay sports issues remain largely news driven remains a challenge he hopes the movement can begin to tackle.
"When somebody comes out or when somebody says something stupid, people pay attention and then people stop paying attention when it dies down," he said. "The challenge is to get the issues front of mind for the people in power in sports all the time: permanently."
Carroll conceded it remains courageous for pro-athletes to come out. She argued, however, the growing number of LGBT athletes who currently play at the high school and collegiate level will have a positive impact in sports over the next five years.
Tuaolo remains equally as optimistic.
"It’s very important that I keep myself involved in this movement," he said. "It’s time for me to step up to the plate and make it easier for [gay athletes]."
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Politics remains my journalistic bread and butter as my feature in this month's PressPassQ newsletter indicates. Stay tuned...
With less than three months to go before the first votes are cast in the 2008 presidential election cycle, the campaign continues to generate headlines in GLBT media outlets across the country.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s apparent flip-flop on gay rights, the Human Rights Campaign and Logo-sponsored presidential forum in August, and the right wing’s obsession with former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s position on a federal marriage amendment are just a handful of stories that reporters in the GLBT press have covered in recent months.
Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of Chicago-based Windy City Times, noted that her newspaper has also covered the ongoing debate over the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Peter Pace’s reassertion last month that homosexuality is immoral. This is particularly newsworthy in Chicago since Pace’s original comments about homosexuality first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
Baim expects to ramp up her election coverage as the primary vote nears. “Every week there’s something [about] GLBT, AIDS, or a civil rights topic that would make it relevant for us to cover,” she said.
She and her staff have paid particular attention to U.S. Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) because of their personal ties to the Chicago area. (Obama moved to Chicago in the 1980s; Clinton grew up in suburban Park Ridge.)
Also important to Windy City Times is the fact that neighboring Iowa will hold the country’s first caucuses in early January. Freelancers provide the bulk of the newspaper’s political coverage.
David Stout, associate editor for Q-Notes in Charlotte, N.C., said his publication plans extensive coverage of the South Carolina primary on Jan. 29. Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has campaigned heavily in the Palmetto State for two reasons – he is a South Carolina native, and he won the state in the 2004 Democratic primary.
South Carolinians traditionally cast their votes on the heels of the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. Stout was quick to praise Edwards, adding his newspaper will likely endorse the native son in the primary. Stout maintained, however, that he and his staff would continue to focus on the candidates and their records as part of their campaign coverage.
Bay Area Reporter news editor Cynthia Baird said she feels the most significant election-related stories remain the anti-GLBT positions held by the majority of the Republican candidates as well as the leading Democratic candidates’ failure to support marriage rights for same-sex couples. Baird said her newspaper has published a variety of articles, columns, and commentaries on White House hopefuls from both parties in addition to coverage of presidential debates and local fundraisers.
GLBT media and columnists have scrutinized the candidates’ records on GLBT issues even before many of them officially entered the race. Gay City News and the New York Blade, for example, reported on the controversy sparked by a leaked memo that Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) executive director Alan Van Capelle wrote to his board members urging them to withhold donations from a March 2006 fundraiser aimed at Clinton’s Senate re-election campaign. The reason was Clinton’s failure to support marriage equality for same-sex couples.
And nationally syndicated columnist Rev. Irene Monroe – who is based at New England’s IN Newsweekly – has criticized Obama for using his religion to justify his opposition to gay and lesbian nuptials on the campaign trail. In response, she endured ongoing harassment from an Obama supporter. (For the complete story, see “Columnist harassed for anti-Obama comments” in last month’s issue of Press Pass Q.)
Boston-based Bay Windows has played a pivotal role in the campaign on the Republican side. The newspaper published a series of articles late last year documenting the pro-gay overtures Romney made during his failed 1994 U.S. Senate bid as well as his successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign.
Mainstream media picked up on the story, which has fed into the narrative that Romney is a “flip-flopper” on issues such as gay rights and abortion. As result, some social conservatives remain largely skeptical of his record.
Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff speculated that Romney would generate even more headlines if he does well in early caucus and primary states. “If he gains traction in Iowa and New Hampshire, well then, that’s a gay story,” he said.
Naff, who plans to launch a website dedicated to gay campaign issues by the end of the year, said his publication – based in the nation’s capital – plans to continue keeping readers informed about the candidates’ positions as the election kicks into high gear.
“We’re covering things as they develop,” he said. “[We are] really parsing [the candidates’] words on our issues to make sure their positions conform to what they’ve done in the past.”
Baim, of Windy City Times, agrees that the campaign will keep her and her staff on their toes: “Things change all the time. We’re definitely covering it as much as we can.”
Monday, October 22, 2007
Lady Liberty on a beautiful October afternoon in New York
Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry
The weather remains unseasonably warm here in Bushwick (it's 68 degrees as I write at 11:15 a.m.). My friend Enrique and I went to the Statue of Liberty via the Staten Island Ferry yesterday. I went to the Union Square farmers market on Saturday morning and later rapped 'Tennessee' with a former GLAAD colleague and his friends in the East Village. I should now probably blog about something a bit more profound now that I've bored you all with news of my weekend in the city!
Republican presidential candidates once again tried to pander to social conservatives at the Family Research Council's so-called Value Voters Summit in Washington this weekend. J.K. Rowling outed Dumbledore during a New York appearance on Friday night. Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski lost his re-election bid on Sunday after voters endorsed Donald Tusk of Civic Platform. All of these news events prove yet again LGBT issues remain squarely in the mainstream. The New York gay set can certainly shop for Marc Jacobs goulashes in the West Village on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in October. Two good friends can traverse the East Village on a Sunday night in search of a perfect 40th birthday party venue for a well-known playwright. I can gossip with my roommate about reactions to my reporting... but the impact world (and local) events have certainly provide this blogger and others with fodder about which to write outside of the seemingly mundane details of our lives.
Friday, October 19, 2007
A version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act without gender identity and expression advanced in the House yesterday despite lobbying and last minute pleas from many within the movement for LGBT rights to block the amended bill. The controversy erupted late last month after Congressman Barney Frank [D-Mass.], with the apparent backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.], introduced two versions of ENDA which separated sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The National Lesbian & Gay Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality and more than 200 other national, statewide and even local organizations blasted the politically calculated move.
The Human Rights Campaign, which maintains support of the inclusive ENDA, has remained conspicuously quiet after the controversy erupted and has faced numerous criticism and even protests as a result of its own calculation. Others, such as former Washington Bladeeditor Chris Crain, have expressed support for Frank's decision to introduce two bills. What remains is a bitter (and arguably nasty) rift between the 'left wing' and the 'right ring' of the movement for LGBT rights. This debate will obviously continue as lawmakers on Capitol Hill -- and eventually President George W. Bush -- seal ENDA's fate. Transgender people must not be left behind. The movement itself has made transgender people part of its umbrella advocacy. Now is not the time for it to turn its back on them in the name of political expediency.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
This protestor joined more than 50 others outside Caliente Cab Company yesterday in support of Khadijah Farmer and her lawsuit against the popular eatery
Less than a week after lesbian New Yorker Khadijah Farmer filed a lawsuit against Caliente Cab Company in response to a male bouncer who kicked her out of the women's bathroom for being 'too masculine,' more than 50 people converged on the popular West Village eatery to protest the way the restaurant allegedly treated her. Farmer maintains she, her girlfriend and their friend were kicked out of Caliente Cab Company despite her repeated attempts to reassure the bouncer she is actually a women. This incident allegedly happened hours after more than 500,000 people attended the city's annual Gay Pride parade. The restaurant maintains it did nothing wrong but a growing chorus of activists beg to disagree... stay tuned!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The debate over marriage for same-sex couples continues to rage within the broader movement for LGBT rights as evidenced in this feature I wrote for Gay.com. It's fair to maintain everyone agrees upon the principle of fairness and equality for same-sex couples. The question remains how to achieve that goal. Putting all of ones eggs into one basket is never a successful strategy as previous civil rights struggles and social movements have proven. Yet this debate will obviously continue as courts and legislatures around the country take up this highly contentious issue. Stay tuned...
As lawmakers on both coasts debate marriage rights for same-sex couples, the issue stands at the top of many LGBT activists' agendas. But not all. Some say this focus on same-sex marriage actually works against their advocacy on other queer issues.
Queers for Economic Justice Executive Director Joseph DeFelippis is critical of the recent focus on gay marriage. His New York-based nonprofit seeks more affordable housing, access to health care, employment and education for economically disadvantaged LGBT New Yorkers.
"The movement for gay marriage has been a disaster," DeFelippis said.
DeFelippis criticizes the way marriage equality advocates have framed the debate, with their talking points and other public comments.
New York transgender activist Melissa Sklarz added that the marriage debate fails to take into account the everyday reality of many LGBT people. She said she feels LGBT urbanites, in particular, are focused on more basic issues than marriage rights.
"For many people in the LGBT community, the ability to survive is always a struggle," she said. "The issue of survival transcends the issue of security."
Equality Alabama board member Howard Bayless shares concerns about basic survival. LGBT activists in his state have focused on anti-hate crime legislation since three Alabamans brutally murdered gay resident Scotty Joe Weaver in Baldwin County in 2004. Equality Alabama's primary mission is to expand rights for LGBT Alabamans, but Bayless says the marriage debate has also allowed his organization and others like it to enhance advocacy for other issues, like fighting hate crime.
"The movement's focus on marriage is providing a vehicle for us to come out at work and to our families and become active in the political process," Bayless said.
Gay marriage's history
The marriage debate began in earnest in 1993, after a Hawaiian judge ruled the ban on marriage for same-sex couples violated the state's constitution. Then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who now chairs the Democratic National Committee, signed the country's first civil unions bill into law in 2000 after the state's Supreme Court ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses.
Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire have since followed suit, while Massachusetts remains the only state where gay and lesbian couples can legally marry. The state's Supreme Judicial Court issued its landmark Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health decision in 2003, when a lesbian couple sued the Commonwealth for denying the women a marriage license. California lawmakers twice passed a marriage bill but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it in 2005 and again Friday.
Advances in the marriage rights movement, especially the Goodridge decision, have sparked a backlash. Voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments to ban marriage for same-sex couples in 2004. Courts in New York, Washington and, most recently, Maryland have ruled against gay men and lesbians who've sought the right to marry in their respective states.
A small but significant faction of LGBT activists has questioned the efficacy of focusing on marriage. More than 250 leaders across the country urged gays and lesbians to look beyond marriage equality in the statement, "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for Our Families & Relationships," released in July 2006. DeFilippis says activists should focus their time and resources on access to health care and other efforts he concludes would generate more tangible results.
"These are more winnable fights than this one has turned out to be," he said.
Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson staunchly defends the gains gay marriage advocates have made. He dismisses criticism that same-sex marriage has been championed at the expense of other issues.
"We care about all aspects of our lives," he told Gay.com in a recent interview. "We are fighting for full inclusion and equality."
Equality California Political Director Seth Kilbourn pointed out that his organization sponsored nine pieces of legislation in addition to the marriage bill Golden State lawmakers approved earlier this year. These include protections for LGBT students and a proposal to allow registered domestic partners to file joint income tax returns. Same-sex marriage rights are just one piece of Equality California's overall agenda, Kilbourn said.
"We are advocating generally for equal treatment under the law in people's lives," Kilbourn said.
Equality Maryland Executive Director Dan Furmansky conceded that efforts to defeat amendments against same-sex marriage have depleted LGBT political resources in recent years. He told Gay.com in a recent e-mail that LGBT organizations "cannot afford" to focus on any single issue. Furmansky maintains, however, that the fight for marriage rights remains vitally important.
"We as LGBT advocates must keep fighting for the protections of marriage because these protections will help millions of Americans in immeasurable ways," Furmansky said.
DeFelippis and others remain skeptical.
"We have a much broader and exciting and creative vision for our families than reflected in the narrow marriage rights movement," DeFelippis said.