Thursday, May 31, 2007

New York City Comptroller Honors LGBT Activists

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., honored acclaimed playwright Doug Wright and five other community leaders and activists yesterday at the LGBT Community Center in Lower Manhattan for their continued work on behalf of LGBT New Yorkers. Thompson, who remains a powerful ally within city government, holds this event each year to kick off the series of celebrations, memorials and commemorations which mark Pride month in New York.

Back row, from left; Metropolitan Community Church Pastor Rev. Pat Bumgardner, playwright Doug Wright, financial planner James E. Law, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah Rabbi Ayelet Cohen. Front row, from left; American Veterans for Equal Rights New York President Denny Meyer, Staten Island Stonewall Co-founder Rosemary Palladino, New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Executive Director Clarence Patton

From left; National Transgender Center for Equality Board Chair Andy Marra poses with New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., after he presented her with an award to honor her for her continued activism in New York and across the country.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cindy Sheehan Resigns from Anti-War Movement

This blogger took great interest in Cindy Sheehan's self-described resignation from the American anti-war movement as he read her announcement on her Daily Kos blog. The media continues to spin her announcement as an exclamation point to a long and obviously painful journey of a mother whose son died in Iraq. War hawks obviously praised her departure as a long overdue move. One-time supporters who had previously backed her activism also applauded Sheehan's announcement. She said she had become disillusioned with the two-party system in light of the war funding bill Congress passed late last week but showed equal contempt for the progressive movement and its leaders which once embraced her as their own.

"I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life," Sheehan wrote. "This group won't work with that group; he won't attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions."

Sheehan's statement stands as a long overdue indictment against the way in which the personal egos of its so-called leaders continue to stand in the way of collective progress. The LGBT movement is certainly not immune to this reality. It regularly highlights activists, lobbyists and spokespeople to talk about marriage for same-sex couples, the need for anti-hate crime legislation and other issues with messages and sound bites they prepare for them. Their stories remain crucially important as the general public continues to discuss these hot topics. The question remains, however, whether these brave men and women become unknowing pawns in a movement whose leaders seem more focused on the advancement of their own agendas than to the cause of collective solidarity and progress. They devote their blood, sweat and often tears to a cause in which they truly believe. Movement leaders certainly recognize this drive not only in their public statements but in their private discussions within their various factions. The second these rank and file challenge the status quo, however, they find themselves in the same position about which Sheehan wrote.

The California native certainly sparked controversy during her work within a movement which later ostracized her. Sheehan's own words expose the very problems which continue to threaten the very progress to which progressive movements are so proud to point. This threat becomes a travesty if personal egos and ambition continue to dominate the agenda.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Polish Government to Investigate 'Gay' Teletubby

Is Tinky Winky gay? A former Polish MP says yes.

The Polish government has reportedly taken a page out of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's playbook and launched a probe to investigate whether the popular children's cartoon 'Teletubbies' promotes homosexuality. Anti-gay politician Ewa Sowinska told a Polish magazine she remains concerned the program promotes homosexuality.

"I noticed (Tinky Winky) has a lady's purse, but I didn't realize he's a boy," the former Polish MP said. "At first I thought the purse would be a burden for this Teletubby... later I learned that this may have a homosexual undertone."

The idea Tinky Winky and his juvenile posse continue to promote homosexuality remains a laughable confirmation of the rampant homophobia within the conservative Polish government. The European Union and other human rights organizations continue to criticize the former Communist country for it's dismal record against its gay and lesbian citizens. It seems, however, some within the government want to distance themselves from Sowinska's homophobic stupidity. Parliamentary Speaker Ludwig Dorn reportedly said her comments "may turn her department into a laughing stock." This categorization has already become a reality.

Update: reports today Sowinska has backed away from her initial claim to investigate the program. Her spokesperson told the Associated Press "We are not going to deal with this issue any more." Reason has triumphed over absurdity in this particular case. Perhaps the Polish government will think twice before it again embarks upon another foolish anti-gay crusade.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Violence Again Erupts at Moscow Gay Pride Events

Ultra-nationalists, members of the Russian Orthodox Church and others attacked activists and politicians with eggs, stones and fists yesterday as they tried to deliver a petition to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to demand their right to hold a gay Pride celebration in the Russian capital. Protesters violently attacked British gay activist Peter Tatchell, Right Said Fred front man Richard Fairbrass, German MEP Volker Beck and others as Moscow police apparently stood by and watched. Authorities later detained them alongside Italian MEP Marco Cappato, Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev and more than two dozen others.

The British Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle, the Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald and other media outlets across the world documented the violence. Openly gay London Mayor Ken Livingstone, openly gay Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and other European politicians quickly condemned the attacks as "sad," "unacceptable violence" and "a travesty to democracy." Dutch MEP Sophie Int'Veld told the Moscow News the European Union must address the continued violence against gay and lesbian Russians.

Homophobia remains widespread despite Russia's decriminalization of homosexuality in 1993. Luzhkov, who has repeatedly described gay Pride marches as 'satanic,' banned such gatherings in Moscow. Activists faced violent anti-gay protesters last year as they held their first march in defiance of the ban and of the authorities. The same situation played out again yesterday before the eyes of the world. Luzhkov, and to a greater extend Russian President Vladimir Putin, continue to disregard the rights of their own citizens. Activists within the European Union continue to call upon their own governments to challenge Putin on these continued abuses at next month's G8 summit in Germany. This weekend's violence remains a shocking reminder of the peril many Russians face within their own country. Their government continues to have blood on its hands as the world's media documented all too clearly. The European Union, the United States and other countries that claim to defend human rights and dignity must pressure Russia to protect all of its citizens. Their collective conscience mandates them to do so.

Right Said Fred front man Richard Fairbrass after anti-gay protesters assaulted him during the gay Pride events in Moscow

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Accuses Anglican Church of Gay Obsession

Gay exclusion within the worldwide Anglican Communion remains a serious problem as Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' decision earlier this month to not invite openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson to next summer's Lambeth Convention illustrates. Robinson's consecration, blessings for same-sex couples and other issues continue to divide many church leaders. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola remains one of the Communion's most vocal anti-gay leaders but his colleague, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said many of his African counterparts remain obsessed with these issues at the expense of other much more pressing problems.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner accused his colleagues of negligence in their apparent failure to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's continued oppression against his own people, the Darfurian genocide and general corruption on the continent. One can argue African Anglican leaders' apparent obsession with homosexuality continues to distract attention away from their own failure to tackle these issues. Gays and lesbians remain all too convenient scapegoats as Tutu's comments suggests. Hypocrisy in organized religion seem to go hand in hand in terms of attitudes towards homosexuality. Tutu continues to show courage as he challenges his colleagues to offer a seat at the table to every Anglican. The Anglican Communion in Africa should follow his example.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Isaiah Washington PSA Airs

A long-awaited PSA which features Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington finally aired on ABC last night during two episodes of the popular medical drama. Washington met with GLAAD President Neil Giuliano and GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings earlier this year after he used an anti-gay slur during a post-Golden Globes press conference. The actor reportedly agreed to appear in the PSA as a means to combat intolerance against LGBT people. A simple PSA does not erase the impact Washington's statements had on his colleagues and the overall LGBT community. Activists [and the broader movement], however, should commend Washington and his appearance in the spot as continued personal accountability for his words and the resolution of the impact they continue to have. This blogger remains hopeful Washington will continue to work with the movement to counter homophobia within Hollywood and across this country.

Romney's Change of Heart?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is perhaps best known on the campaign trail as the so-called social conservative whose position on Constitutional amendments to ban marriage for same-sex couples has evolved. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued it's landmark Goodridge decision during the Romney administration and he failed to stop marriage for same-sex couples in the Commonwealth despite his desperate -- and repeated -- efforts.

He remains an unapologetic opponent of marriage for same-sex couples as he seeks to become the first Mormon in the White House. Romney, however, continues to maintain he is not anti-gay as he told the Associated Press in a brief interview following a campaign appearance in Jacksonville, Florida. He told the news wire he doesn't think "a person who's running for a secular position as I am should talk about or engage in discussions of what they in their personal faith or their personal beliefs is immoral or not immoral" in the context of a question about whether he thought homosexuality is immoral. Romney further added he "opposes discrimination against gay people" and said categorically "I am not anti-gay." Really? The former governor had no problem with his campaign's calculated efforts to court potential gay and lesbian voters in Massachusetts during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign. He now has no problem to call for the curtailment of their rights five years later as he seeks the White House. These responses are simply more of the same from a former governor who continues to flip-flop on his own record to the expense of his own credibility.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Military Discharges More Gay Arabic Linguists

As activists continue to urge Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Associated Press reported yesterday U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan [D-Mass.] and other lawmakers may call upon the Pentagon to testify before Congress about the recent dismissal of yet more gay Arabic linguists. Meehan continues to spearhead the effort to repeal this policy former President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993. He stated in his letter to House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton [D-Missouri] "At a time when our military is stretched to the limit and our cultural knowledge of the Middle East is dangerously deficient, I just can't believe that kicking out able, competent Arabic linguists is making our country any safer."

Indeed; the military has reportedly discharged 58 Arabic linguists under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This fact is simply alarming as Meehan suggests. One can make a clear argument a lack of understanding of the Iraqi people, Iraqi culture and the broader Arab world continues to contribute to the failed campaign in the war-torn country. These linguists play an invaluable role in this war regardless of their sexual orientation. To discharge these men solely on the grounds they are gay simply makes no sense and highlights the need to repeal this flawed policy once and for all.

WNYC Mixes With the Gays

More than 200 LGBT public radio lovers, including this blogger, attended WNYC's first LGBT singles mixer last night at the Chelsea Art Museum on West 22nd Street. Reporter Richard Hake stumped singles with questions about Cynthia Nixon, Sappho, Elton John and other gay icons. The sushi was quite good as well!

WNYC Reporter Richard Hake [right] stumps singles during a gay pop culture quiz at the Chelsea Art Museum

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anglican Church Continues to Struggle With Homosexuality

The latest in a seemingly never-ending series of rows within the Anglican Communion over openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson erupted yesterday after the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, declined to invite him to the Lambeth Conference next summer in London. The church holds the gathering every 10 years but the New York Times reported Williams wrote he reserves "the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the communion.

The Episcopal Church -- the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- consecrated Robinson in 2003 after his New Hampshire congregants overwhelmingly embraced him. Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and other vocal dissenters within the communion have distanced themselves from the Episcopal Church in response to its support of the openly gay bishop. Robinson's consecration sparked a much needed conversation among the Anglican Communion and other organized religious institutions about the role LGBT can play within them. These debates are often contentious and even painful. Williams' decision to exclude Robinson, however, sends an appalling message to LGBT Anglicans they remain on the margins of the worldwide table.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

BBC Examines The Late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Legacy

This blogger listened with piqued interest this morning as the British Broadcasting Corporation talked with two Republican analysists about the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's legacy. The Thomas Road Baptist Church founder's homophobia and outrageous statements against lesbians, gays and anyone else who opposed his divisive agenda were widely known. But his role within the Republican Party during the 1980s and early 1990s was equally as important.

The panelists were correct to note the war in Iraq remains the dominant issue in the current election cycle. They are also correct to note the growing discontent among social conservatives about the current Republican Presidential candidates. Log Cabin Republican Executive Director Patrick Sammon told this blogger in an interview last month the GOP must focus on issues which unite Americans if the party hopes to maintain the White House next November. Voter discontent with the war remains high. It seems likely this sentiment will continue -- or even increase -- as the situation in Iraq continues to evolve in the months leading up to the first caucuses and primaries. Marriage and other social issues remain important to many social conservatives and their LGBT counterparts. The current geopolitical realities will almost certainly diminish the impact the anti-LGBT rhetoric Falwell and others used so well in previous elections. Hopefully this trend will become permanent.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Airs Revealing Documentary About LGBT Oppression in Iran

This blogger remains highly suspicious of self-preserving naivete as a means to shelter oneself from reality. The American people remain, by and large, blissfully ignorant to events which continue to unfold outside the United States. The LGBT community is no exception but a recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary about the brutal oppression LGBT Iranians endure in their own country serves as a stark reminder of the conditions under which many of our brothers and sisters unfortunately live.

The CBC broadcast "Out in Iran" earlier this year but this blogger rather ashamedly discovered it only this past weekend. Producers interviewed gay activist Mani Zaniar, a former gay prostitute named "Hooman," a transgender woman and others who continue to suffer persecution from the current regime. Iranian law punishes those convicted of lavat or sodomy with a range of punishment that includes 100 lashes and even death. Those who appeared in the documentary literally risked their lives to publicly discuss their plight within Iran. Zaniar himself explained his decision to come forward in a short but defiant and brave statement.

"It is time for us to speak out," he said. "It is time to start defending our rights."

LGBT Americans certainly struggle against discrimination based on the lack of anti-discrimination and anti-hate crime statutes, marriage equality and other basic legal protections. They remain fortunate, however, to live in a country where their government will not execute them because of the person with whom they choose to sleep with or love. This point underscores the obvious as opposed to make a self-righteous argument as the movement in this country continues to struggle under overinflated egos, self-serving personal and organizational agendas and a lack of accountability. There are certainly a multitude of good people within the broader movement who continue their good work on behalf of LGBT Americans. Organizations and stakeholders within the movement, however, need to remind themselves of the common goals of fairness and equality upon which it was created. Zaniar and his Iranian colleagues certainly provide this reminder through their extraordinary activism.

New Yorkers March To Support Marriage Equality

More than 100 New Yorkers joined U.S. Rep Anthony Weiner [D-Queens], New York City Council Members Rosie Mendez [D-Lower East Side] and John Liu [D-Flushing] and others this past Saturday at Marriage Equality New York's annual marriage equality march over the Brooklyn Bridge. Turnout was certainly less than organizers had expected but Fox 5, New York 1 and other local television stations and newspapers covered the march in light of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's bill to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples in New York State.

From left; New York City Council Members John Liu [D-Flushing], Rosie Mendez [D-Lower East Side] and Kate Seely-Kirk on behalf of Speaker Christine Quinn [D-Chelsea] present MENY with a plaque before the march.

March participants gather at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gentrification Continues to Cause Tension in New York

Gentrification continues to transform neighborhoods many New Yorkers once condemned as too violent. Bushwick, this blogger's home, remains an example of how a once maligned area has attracted a growing number of artists, hipsters and 20-somethings who have recently moved to the city. This influx of new residents continue to change the long-held identity on which Bushwick and other neighborhoods hold.

These changes inevitably cause tension among recent arrivals and long-time residents as the Los Angeles Times detailed today in an article about the evolution of the West Village. The neighborhood remains a cradle of the modern LGBT rights movement. But some long-time West Villagers remain unhappy with the new generation of LGBT people whom they say continue to disrupt their quality of life. Local residents have long complained of increased violence, vandalism and prostitution as a result of the youth who gather in the neighborhood. The murders of Sakia Gunn, Marsha B. Johnson and others only exacerbate these tensions.

The neighborhood and the Christopher Street Pier in particular remains a haven for many LGBT youth of color from the Bronx, Staten Island and New Jersey. West Villagers concerns about increased violence, vandalism and prostitution remain valid but it is perhaps disingenuous to exclusively blame the youth for the ongoing problems in the neighborhood. Many of these residents played prominent roles in the early gay rights movement. They, along with the youth themselves and their advocates, have a responsibility to ensure the neighborhood remains a safe haven for everyone.

Single? Listen to Public Radio? Tune in to WNYC’s Gay Mixer

The story I wrote for this week's New York Blade is much more light-hearted [and fun] than other more cynical blogs about American politics and movement maneuvering in recent days. "Sex and the City" provided me with an obvious inspiration... What's up Carrie? This blogger remains an avid WNYC listener who tunes into the station for hours each day. The station continues to cover a variety of LGBT-related stories in the city in a comprehensive manner. I very much look forward to attending next week's mixer.

For many single New Yorkers, Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” said it best when she compared Gotham to a “dating desert.” But contrary to popular belief, queer New Yorkers do not have to schlep all the way to Fire Island, East Hampton or even their local bar or bathhouse to find a potential date for the summer.

New York public radio station WNYC will provide Gotham’s LGBT singles with a much more local opportunity to meet their matches with its first singles mixer specifically for the LGBT community. It takes place Wednesday, May 23, at the Chelsea Art Museum on West 22nd Street.

Japanese photographer Miwa Yanagi will show her work in her first solo exhibit while gay and lesbian singles mingle and take part in a pop culture quiz moderated by veteran WNYC news reporter Richard Hake.

Hake, who also hosts the Advocate Newsmagazine on Logo, said the mixer provides gay listeners with an opportunity to meet like-minded public radiophiles. He joked that he expects singles to compare their favorite WNYC and National Public Radio programs—“Morning Edition,” “The Leonard Lopate Show” and “Fresh Air,” to name a few—while they discuss their favorite Madonna song, their favorite episode of “The L-Word” and other aspects of gay pop culture.

“People who listen to public radio love public radio,” he said. “This is a great way for people who are like minded to meet each other.”

WNYC remains the most listened-to public radio station in the country. More than 1 million people tune into New York Public Radio’s two stations each week. And WNYC remains the most popular radio station in Manhattan.

Brian Lehrer of “The Brian Lehrer Show” hosted a singles mixer last year but Hake said WNYC decided to host a variety of events this year with musical and other themes.

The station has sold more than 100 tickets for its gay singles event as of press time. Hake said he expects WNYC will sell more tickets because he feels listeners will find the mixer an attractive alternative to New York’s bars, dating Web sites and other virtual venues.

“The online thing can get so mechanical and so impersonal,” he said. “Events like this that are not bar-related or computer-related play on that well.”

Hake conceded he looks forward to the opportunity to talk about the Material Girl and other gay legends as emcee and quiz master.

But he added the upcoming mixer provides him with an opportunity to meet listeners who continue to support WNYC.

“I sometimes feel like I’m talking to myself in a windowless room and I don’t realize thousands of people are eavesdropping,” Hake joked. “I totally love to meet people who listen to us on the radio.”

WNYC’s LGBT Singles Mixer, hosted by Richard Hake, 7–10 p.m., The Chelsea Art Museum, 556 W. 22nd St., $35 advance/$40 at door (complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres are included); for more information, call WNYC Listener Services at 212-669-3333 or visit their web site at

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Three Years of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Massachusetts; Politicos Jockey to Influence Vote on Proposed Amendment

The Boston Globe reported today the margin of votes needed to block a proposed Constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples has shrunk to less than half a dozen. This article comes on the third anniversary gays and lesbians began to marry in the Commonwealth. It also ran on the heels of increased legislative lobbying to block the proposed amendment and a $750,000 media campaign to back up these efforts.

Today is a day to celebrate the more than 8,000 same-sex couples who have married in Massachusetts since the Supreme Judicial Court issued its landmark Goodridge decision. Activists suffered a setback earlier this year after Beacon Hill lawmakers approved the proposed amendment. They have had more than four months to reformulate their strategy but they must remain vigilant as they continue to make the case for marriage among legislators and their constituents.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean and other Democratic political operatives have reportedly urged their colleagues in Massachusetts to move quickly to block the proposed amendment. A vote could come as early as June 14 but they clearly want to end the debate before marriage for same-sex couples could become a divisive social issue in the upcoming Presidential elections. The party remains all too aware this issue contributed to their stinging defeat in the last Presidential election. It's intervention into the current debate in Massachusetts remains a blunt example of political posturing for the sake of advancing the party's own White House ambitions. Cynicism aside; the goal must remain to defeat the proposed amendment through a solid [and convincing] campaign. Same-sex couples, especially those who have married in Massachusetts since 2004, deserve nothing less.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Rev. Jerry Falwell Dies

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, a long-time nemesis of LGBT activists and progressive organizations and political factions, died yesterday after he was found unconscious in his office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. President George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] and other GOP Presidential hopefuls, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other religious figures have added their condolences to the already long list of public tributes. But Falwell's vitriolic anti-LGBT rhetoric simply cannot be ignored.

Falwell publicly secured his anti-LGBT credentials with his support of Anita Bryant's efforts to repeal a South Florida gay rights ordinance in the late 1970s. The outspoken minister's categorization of AIDS as God's condemnation of homosexuality further enraged activists while his denunciation of the Teletubbies because he believed Tinky Winky was gay bordered on the absurd. Falwell further vilified himself among progressives after he said gay rights supporters and others caused the Sept. 11 attacks in the days after the tragedy.

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, CNN and the BBC are among the media outlets to report Falwell's anti-gay legacy. The National Lesbian & Gay Task Force and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also drew attention to these sentiments in their public responses to Falwell's death.

Falwell certainly became a national [and perhaps mythical] figure who did not fail to influence politics and the movement he helped to create and elevate out of the pews. His many supporters will continue to praise the good work they feel he has done and they will seek to romanticize his life in the coming days and weeks. But he leaves behind a divisive legacy of homophobia and intolerance from which even those within his own constituency have begun to distance themselves. This legacy remains an essential part of the Falwell story that must be told.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iranian Authorities Arrest More Than 80 Suspected Gay Men

Iran remains one of the world's most oppressive countries in terms of ongoing persecution of LGBT people. The Islamic Republic's penal code calls for the execution of anyone found guilty of sex with a person of the same-sex. Iranian authorities routinely conduct raids on parties and other gatherings attended by gay men, lesbians and cross-dressers.

The Toronto-based Iranian Queer Organization reported police arrested more than 80 people last Thursday at a birthday party in Isfahan. IRQO Executive Director Arsham Parsi said in a press release authorities continue to torture those it took into custody and refuses to allow their families to visit them in jail. One man, whom IRQO identified as Peyman, said he found police cars outside the home where the party had been held after he turned onto the street.

"All my friends were arrested while seven or eight policemen beat them with batons," he said. "Fearing the usual punishments for attending a party, two had jumped from the second-floor window and were in a bad condition."

This arrest is the latest in a series of raids and executions that continue to highlight the brutal oppression LGBT Iranians continue to endure in their own country. Gay City News contributor Doug Ireland reported last month many Iranian gay men undergo sex-reassignment surgery to avoid government persecution . The same reporter documented the British government's decision to ignore a gay Iranian's asylum application after authorities arrested him on April 20. Another Iranian asylum seeker committed suicide two years earlier after British authorities also denied his request. The hanging of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni in 2005 also sparked outrage among international LGBT activists.

Some dispute claims as to whether authorities executed the two teenagers because of their homosexuality. But nobody can dispute the severe oppression LGBT Iranians continue to face in their country. Iran has a long history which spans thousands of years. The country also lays claim to a rich and diverse culture. Yet the government's continued oppression of its LGBT citizens remains a shameful blemish to an otherwise proud tradition.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Activists Target Homophobia in Black Churches

This story I wrote for EDGE Publications late last week examines the very serious problem homophobia in the Black church continues to pose. This institution is all too aware of the impact discrimination continues to have on underrepresented groups in this country and around the world. The ministers and activists I interviewed for this story used hypocrisy, social conscious and justice as themes in their sound bites. Many feel the church is guilty of hypocrisy in its continued treatment of their LGBT congregants. Others argue the institution has lost its 'social gospel' or even standing among many LGBT people of color. The debate over homophobia from the pulpit will rage on as affirming ministers and activists seek to end these attitudes.

More than 50 years after the civil-rights movement began, homophobia within historically Black churches remains a concern for many GLBT people of color. The National Black Justice Coalition and other organizations continue to challenge these attitudes through a variety of outreach and educational programs and initiatives.

NBJC announced its second Faithful Call to Justice earlier this year as part of its ongoing efforts to eradicate homophobia from the pulpit. The advocacy organization describes this latest call to action as a "nationwide effort to bring attention to the value and worth of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregants as well as HIV/AIDS awareness and stigma."

Faithful Call to Justice will take place early in June at more than 100 churches across the country. NBJC Director of Religious Affairs Dr. Sylvia Rhue said in a recent interview with EDGE this initiative is a direct challenge to the homophobia she said continues to plague the Black church.

"We felt it was high time to acknowledge the spiritual worth of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters," Rhue said. "In many faith communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not presented as people to emulate but rather are put down and demonized."

This call to action comes after Bishop Yvette Flunder, senior pastor of the San Francisco-based City of Refuge, and other faith leaders and activists from across the country gathered in Philadelphia to attend the annual Black Church Summit to address homophobia in the Black church. The Rev. Al Sharpton and others have also campaigned against these attitudes in recent years.

Faithful Call to Justice urges congregations to sign a "Statement of Affirmation," to deliver sermons that discuss homophobia, develop GLBT-inclusive programs and to acknowledge openly GLBT congregants in bulletins and other publications.

"This is our way of saying the church--synagogues, mosques and temples--need to examine attitudes towards gay men and lesbians and take actions that best serve justice and spiritual healing," she said.

The Rev. Janyce Jackson of Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church in Newark, N.J., praised NBJC’s latest call to action. The Black church plays a prominent role in the lives of many people of color. She said homophobia denies many LGBT people of color access to this cultural and religious institution.

"If I can’t go to my pastor as a mother and talk about how my son or daughter is suffering because of the issues surrounding their being gay or lesbian, that’s a whole piece that’s missing for me," Jackson said. "I’m glad they are doing this work."

Cambridge, Mass., based columnist the Rev. Irene Monroe issued an equally scathing indictment against the Black church. She said the homophobia many pastors and congregations continue to support raises the question as to whether the institution remains a viable one.

"More of us are outside of the Black church," she said. "Since the civil rights movement, the Black church has really lost its social gospel calling."

The Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Miami fired the Rev. Tommie Watkins, Jr., after he refused to marry a lesbian as a way to hide his sexual orientation. The Alabama-born minister chronicled this experience in his book "Living Out Loud" but he, like Monroe, said the Black church continues to focus on homosexuality at the expense of HIV, teenage pregnancy and other issues.

"Homosexuality is somehow seen as the ultimate sin," Watkins told EDGE in a recent interview while he added churchgoers continue to support these attitudes. "The only way the church gets away with it is because we allow the church to do it."

The Unity Fellowship Church remains the largest domination within the Black church to minister primarily to GLBT people. The Rev. Carl Bean founded the fellowship in Los Angeles in 1982. The denomination remains based in Southern California and continues to operate a variety of HIV/AIDS, health and educational ministries across the country.

The Rev. Derrick Wilson of the Healing Stream United Church of Christ in Philadelphia said gay men and lesbians comprise a large portion of traditional Black congregations. He cautioned against the categorization of the Black church as more homophobic than other faith institutions--or society. But Wilson said the Black church is guilty of hypocrisy through its public denials of homosexuality.

"Gays and lesbians make up our choirs, our preachers," he said. "We accept this. We understood ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ long before Bill Clinton came up with it."

Elder Joseph Tolton of the Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church in New York said Faithful Call to Justice provides an opportunity to reflect upon the impact homophobia continue to have on gay men and lesbians inside and outside the Black church. He traced these attitudes back to the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But Tolton concluded they are simply an attempt to deflect attention away from the conversation about sexuality that has yet to take place within the Black church.

"The issue at its heart is that we have yet to have an open and honest conversation about human sexuality," he said. "All the noise about homosexuality is a distraction from the silence."

Indeed; Rhue and others said Faithful Call to Justice is really about the need for the Black church to return to its roots. She urged pastors, ministers and others who continue to preach against homosexuality to re-examine Jesus Christ and the example she said he set.

"Christ’s message was about hospitality and welcome," Rhue said. "There shouldn’t be homophobic messages connected to Jesus Christ."

Watkins readily agreed. "If there is any organization that should stand up for all human rights it should be the Black church," he said. "God is love and God is unconditional love. They are commanded... to love everybody. They don’t have a choice in that."

Monroe further described Faithful Call to Justice as an opportunity to follow the example Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others set during the civil rights movement. She bluntly said the Black church continues its failure to head their legacy.

"King said the fight for equality is greater than just for racial justice," Monroe said. "We need to put front and center those ministers and allies who are for LGBT justice. We need to let the LGBT community and the larger community know these are our new heroes who follow in MLK’s vision of justice."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pride Arrives Early In New Hope, Penn.

A soft, fluffy piece about New Hope, Penn., I wrote for this week's issue of the New York Blade. This blogger confesses to have never visited the village. But perhaps now is the time!

With the barrage of Pride celebrations fast approaching, gay and lesbian New Yorkers have a myriad of places across the Tri-State area in where they can celebrate their pink heritage. The city’s gay and lesbian commemorations later next month remains the Grande Dame of local Pride celebrations. But New Hope, in Bucks County, Penn., provides Gothamites their first opportunity of the year to show off their true colors.

The New Hope Celebrates (NHC) festival will take place at various locations throughout the gay friendly village along the west bank of the Delaware River from May 18 through May 20. Festival organizers selected “Somewhere Wver the Rainbow” as this year’s theme in apparent homage to the late diva Judy Garland and her legions of gay fans.

New York DJ Lady Bunny, singers Josh Zuckerman and Scott Nevins, the Glamazons, the Lesbians of Laugher and others are slated to perform at a number of different venues in the village during the three-day festival. The Raven Resort will host a Sunday tea dance with the Flyboys of Flag Troupe Houston and Reichen Lehmkuhl of the “Amazing Race” along with a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “Saint of 9/11.” A parade will also wind its way through downtown New Hope.

NHC Organizer Terrence Meck said he expects the parade, which is a first for the festival, to draw thousands of local residents and visitors alike.

“There are a lot more activities going on that will appeal to a broader audience,” he said. “It won’t be, by any means, a New York gay pride, but it is exciting because it will be the first parade happening in New Hope.”

NHC chair and part-time New Yorker Daniel Brooks shared this excitement. Brooks, who owns the Wishing Well Guesthouse in New Hope, joined other local innkeepers, merchants and residents to create the festival in 2003 as a way to attract younger gay and lesbian visitors to the village. Less than 1,500 people attended the first Pride, but Brooks expects 3,000 to attend this year’s festival. He also said he expects the event to raise $85,000 for a number of local gay advocacy organizations.

“The impact has been exactly what we had hoped it would be,” Brooks said. “We have definitely seen the number of LGBT people increase. The festival has really helped to generate interest that has always been in New Hope from the gay community.”

Less than two hours from New York, New Hope first became a popular destination for gays and lesbians more than half a century ago. The Bucks County Playhouse, along with the Raven Bar, a number of bed and breakfasts and antique shops are among New Hope’s many attractions.

Gay Philadelphians and others from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and other cities across the Northeast and the Mid Atlantic descend upon the village each weekend in search of relaxation. A growing number of gay New Yorkers have also found New Hope an attractive alternative to the Jersey Shore, the Catskills, Provincetown and other traditional summer Meccas.

Brooks said the typical New Hope visitor hails from either Northern New Jersey or New York despite the seasonal influx of those seeking an urban escape. But he added the village has grown more popular with people from across the country and beyond.

“We get guests from all over the place—from Europe, from the West Coast,” he said.

Meck agreed. He proudly pointed out that he feels this growing phenomenon is no coincidence.

“New Hope is a much quicker place to get to than the Hamptons or Fire Island,” Meck said. “Over the years it has evolved into a beautiful river town. There is no attitude, and it’s a beautiful place to live.”

Both men credit the festival as one reason New Hope has regained its place on the gay and lesbian travel circuit. Brooks said he expects even more people will discover the laid-back village along the Delaware in the years to come.

“In some cases it is like a reacquainting situation,” he said. “For others who have never been here before it is a brand new experience.”

For more information, visit the site

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Massachusetts Lawmakers Against Postpone Marriage Amendment Vote

With less than a week until gay activists celebrate the third anniversary of marriage for same-sex couples in Massachusetts, lawmakers on Beacon Hill yesterday again debated the future of a proposed Constitutional amendment to ban these unions. This contentious debate has continued in the Commonwealth since the Supreme Judicial Court issued its landmark Goodridge decision in 2003. Lawmakers, true to form, postponed a vote on the proposed amendment until June 14.

The case can be made activists need to again make the case for marriage for same-sex couples after the legislature voted to approve the amendment during their Constitutional Convention earlier this year. The SJC ruled a few days before the vote the Constitution mandates a vote on the amendment and other citizen-sponsored petitions. Activists suffered a stinging defeat because their strategy had relied on the use of parliamentary tactics to block a vote. Nearly six months later, they continue to lobby lawmakers in key legislative districts with Gov. Deval Patrick's approval and the support of other key legislators. The tide has certainly changed with the Deval administration and Senate President Therese Murray. Activists and their supporters, however, cannot fall back into a false sense of security that seemed to dominate past debates. More than 8,000 couples have married in Massachusetts since Goodridge became law in 2004. The sky has truly not fallen onto the Commonwealth and activists will have something additional to celebrate next May 17 if they successfully kill the amendment.

Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Celebrates Second Anniversary

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund has secured settlements for Helena Stone, who reached a significant legal victory with the MTA last October after police officers repeatedly arrested and harassed her after she used a women's restroom inside Grand Central Terminal, and other transgender New Yorkers who have endured discrimination. This blogger attended TLDEF's second anniversary celebration last night in Lower Manhattan. This organization's profile continues to grow within New York as it enhances it's work on behalf of transgender New Yorkers.

From Left; TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman, TLDEF board members Pauline Park, Todd Robichaud and Dinh Tu Tran

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Coming Out: A Personal Story

New York City remains a relative easy place to live as an openly gay man. The vast majority of elected officials support their gay constituents, hundreds of clubs, bars and restaurants cater to gay New Yorkers in neighborhoods across the city and most New Yorkers accept gay men as another facet of their city's rich diversity. Yet it is naive to think every gay man is fortunate enough to live in a city where difference is celebrated as a strength.

It has been nearly six years since I first came out to myself in a small town laundromat in Central New Hampshire. The experience remains a defining moment in my life because of the support I received from my friends, my community and most importantly my family. My mother brought up this obvious fact during one of our almost daily phone calls last night. Her brother who lives in South Texas is the first person on a list in his community to receive a kidney transplant. I was elated to hear this news but my mother suddenly interjected my uncle respects me despite my sexual orientation. I paused for a second because she caught me off guard. A sense of happiness [and relief] soon followed and I am almost certain my mother could see me beaming on the other end of the phone.

I rarely think about how my sexual orientation differentiates me from other people any more because New York continues to provide me with the space to live as how I want to live. My uncle and the vast majority of my family will probably never fully understand why I am attracted to people of the same-sex. I will most likely never understand the reasons for my sexual orientation either. But I am truly blessed to have a family who accepts their son, their nephew, their brother and their cousin without condition. I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Members of Diversity Committee Resign After Officials Cancel Lesbian Speaker's Speech

Straight allies continue to define their ever-increasing influence within the LGBT movement. The work of former colleagues, faith leaders and everyday people testify to this presence time and time again. A group of Nebraska state workers who did the right thing are among the legions of straight Americans who continue to change hearts and minds.

More than a dozen employees with the state Department of Health and Human Services resigned from a workplace diversity committee after they claimed officials forced them to cancel a lesbian speaker's presentation about same-sex families during a recent luncheon. Former committee members Cathy Kingery, Lupe Hickey and others told a local television station they stepped down as a matter of principle.

"I can't be a part of something that is hypocritical and definitely discriminates and promotes intolerance," Hickey told KETV.

HHS Chief Executive Officer Chris Peterson quickly distanced herself from the growing controversy. She, rather coldly, tried to explain her department's definition of diversity.

"We followed the federal protected classes," Peterson told KETV. "Sexual orientation is not a federally protected class."

This definition is simply inaccurate outside of a strict legal definition and a frankly lame attempt at damage control that benefits nobody. The federal government remains woefully slow in expanding its bureaucratic definitions and reflecting societal changes that continue to evolve. The committee members who stepped down recognized this evolution through their actions. They will almost certainly not wave rainbow flags at the local gay pride parade. But their collective resignation certainly sends a powerful message of inclusion upon which the idea of diversity is built.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Gay Republicans Hold Annual Convention

Gay Republicans from across the country met in Denver this weekend for the annual Log Cabin Republican convention. The confab came after the leading GOP Presidential candidates met at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California in the first of several planned forums in the months leading up to the first primaries and caucuses. The war and abortion dominated the conversation between moderator Chris Matthews and the candidates attempted to display their conservative credentials in the image of the late 40th President. The GOP remains in shambles after last November's mid-term elections and the current administration's unpopularity. This reality was on full display on the stage in Simi Valley.

Log Cabin Republican Executive Director Patrick Sammon told this blogger last month the GOP needs to nominate a candidate who can appeal to moderate voters across the country. He added gay and lesbian Republicans, in particular, will look to a Republican who will unite the party. True. Last November's election proved the American people have begun to grow tired of the use of the anti-LGBT rhetoric around marriage for same-sex couples and other social issues to rally voters to the polls. The Republican Party's current disarray reflects that reality. The fact remains, however, the campaign remains in its infancy and LGBT politicos on both sides of the aisle cannot grow complacent [or arrogant] with regards to the perceived support their candidates give them. The Log Cabin Republicans could play an important role within the GOP as it attempts to appeal to a more voters outside of its socially conservative base. LGBT Democrats should follow suit if they wish to become more than a lucrative fundraising Rolodex.

Friday, May 4, 2007

House Passes Hate Crimes Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that would allow federal, state and local law enforcement to better prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act languished for nearly a decade in the formerly Republican controlled Congress before lawmakers passed it with a vote of 237 to 180. The Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy organizations quickly praised passage of the historic bill.

"This is a historic day that moves all Americans closer to safety from the scourge of hate violence," HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. "Today, legislators sided with the 73 percent of the American people who support the expansion of hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity."

Legislation is a small part of a much larger solution needed to reduce the number of anti-LGBT hate and bias crimes in this country. Anti-LGBT organizations continue to frame LLEHCPA as an attempt by a radical agenda to stifle anti-LGBT sentiments. This argument is ridiculous but the Bush administration, which appears receptive to these positions, announced the President plans to veto the bill.

"The administration favors strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crime based on personal characteristics such as race, color, religion or national origin," the White House said in a statement. "There has been no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement, and doing so is inconsistent with the proper allocation of criminal enforcement responsibilities between the different levels of the government."

Inconstant with the proper allocation of criminal enforcement responsibilities between the different levels of the government? Only 22 states have in place anti-hate crime statutes that include sexual orientation while less than a dozen of these states include gender identity or expression. The federal government has a responsibility to protect all of its citizens and the Bush administration's position fails to meet this responsibility. The murders of Matthew Shepard, Sakia Gunn, Brandon Teena and countless others are stark reminders of the tragedy these crimes continue to inflict in this country. Politicians, activists and average citizens alike all have a responsibility [and a duty] to work together to reduce the numbers of anti-LGBT violence. LLEHCPA remains a symbolic piece of this solution. But the Bush administration and other LLEHCPA opponents should attempt to explain their opposition to the friends and family members anti-LGBT hate crimes impact most directly before they further their gross misjudgments based on homophobia and transphobia.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Isaiah Washington Announces PSA With GLAAD and GLSEN

A litany of celebrities continue to partake in that all too predictable cycle of using racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, quickly apologizing for their offensive comments and doing damage control to deflect attention away from any potential damage the backlash may have done to their carefully choreographed careers. Grey's Anatomy's co-star Isaiah Washington is among these public figures.

He sparked outrage earlier this year among the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and other LGBT activists and organizations with his use of a homophobic slur during an interview with reporters after the Golden Globes. Washington quickly apologized for the slur. He met with GLAAD President Neil Giuliano and GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings and soon afterwards announced he had entered a treatment facility to rectify his own homophobia. Many activists remained highly skeptical of what they perceived to be a high-profile PR campaign designed to deflect attention away from Washington's perceived homophobia. But his publicist's announcement yesterday the actor will appear in a PSA with GLAAD and GLSEN could begin to change these perceptions.

This blogger remains highly skeptical of PR campaigns and the repeated attempts at damage control in which high profile figures continue to engage. Washington's announcement, however, comes as a hopeful development he took the criticism from earlier this year to heart. It remains to be seen whether the actor will stay true to this apparent new found course. But his recent announcement remains a positive step forward.

Don Imus May Sue CBS

Former shock jock Don Imus has made headlines once again with reports he plans to sue CBS Radio for wrongful breach of his contract after the network fired him last month. CNN reported Imus had $40 million left on his contract with CBS. Documents provided to CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin further indicate the network also encouraged Imus to remain "irreverent" and "controversial" on his program.

"Company (CBS Radio) acknowledges that Artist's (Imus') services to be rendered hereunder are a unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial and personal character and that programs of the same general type and nature containing these components are desired by Company and are consistent with Company rules and policies," the contract stated.

CBS fired Imus last month after he used racist epithets to describe the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Imus had a long and documented history of using racist, homophobic and sexist statements during his decades long career. Activists on both sides will almost certainly continue to debate the post-Imus termination fallout as he seeks to redefine his role. CBS' decision, however, remains a strong and long overdue statement against hate speech that has reignited the debate over its continued presence in the media.

Fired Transgender City Manager Front-Runner for New Position

The Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida, reported today a former city manager fired from his job earlier this year after he disclosed her transition is the front-runner for the city manager position in the Gulf Coast city. The Largo City Commission fired Steven Stanton, who applied for the Sarasota position as Susan A. Stanton, in February after commissioners learned Stanton's plans to transition from a man into a woman.

The National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Lesbian & Gay Task Force and other local, statewide and national LGBT advocacy organizations blasted the commissioners' vote. Police also arrested Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith during a Feb. 27 public hearing in Largo after she began to hand out "Don't Discriminate" leaflets.

Stanton's termination remains an outrageous and tragic example of the discrimination that exists for millions of LGBT people everyday. Most accounts indicate Stanton received excellent performance reviews during his 14-year tenure as city manager. Stanton, through no fault of his own, has become a cause celebre that highlights the need for universal anti-discrimination statutes in this country. Sarasota commissioners recognized Stanton's qualifications, and not his gender identity, in their announcement. The same cannot be said for their counterparts in Pinellas County at their own expense.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Dina Matos McGreevey Talks to Oprah

There comes a time where it is necessary for a journalist to ask the perhaps obvious question: Is this story actually important to my readers? Dina Matos McGreevey's appearance on Oprah yesterday prompted this blogger to repeatedly ask that question.

Matos McGreevey appeared on the talk show to discuss her new book "Silent Partner: A Memoir of My Marriage." It chronicles her relationship with former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, her reaction to his disclosure of an affair with a former aid and his subsequent resignation in 2004. The talk show host, not surprisingly, peppered Matos McGreevey with questions about her sex life with the now openly gay former governor and other topics of interest to her and to the millions of women who watch her everyday. Matos McGreevey, for better or worse, came across as a naive and somewhat bitter soon-to-be-ex-wife as she methodically discussed her book.

The former New Jersey first lady certainly suffered greatly from the governor's resignation and the very public scandal that ensued. Both Matos McGreevey and McGreevey, however, continue to engage in a very public PR campaign as their contentious divorce plays out in the media. The New York Post, for example, reported late last month Matos McGreevey strongly objected to a nude photograph McGreevey and his partner Mark O'Donnell had placed in their home. She confirmed her position to Oprah.

"It's another example of his poor judgement," Matos McGreevey said. "It's not Michelangelo. It is a 55 by 60 photograph of a nude male."

Matos McGreevey certainly has every right to tell her side of the story. But her book tour, combined with the release of McGreevey's own account last September and the former couple's public divorce, raises questions about intent. These developments certainly provide journalists and editors with an endless supply of sensational headlines. But the question remains as to the personal necessity to generate such headlines at the expense of other stories that most may argue are more important to cover.

BP Chief Executive Resigns After Tabloid Details Relationship with Former Escort

British Petroleum Chief Executive John Browne resigned yesterday after a British tabloid published details of his long-time relationship with a Canadian-born escort. The high-profile businessman had sought to prevent the Mail on Sunday from reporting details of his relationship with Jeff Chevalier but the House of Lords rejected the claim.

“For the past 41 years of my career at BP, I have kept my private life separate from my business life,” Browne said in a statement. “I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter to be kept private. It is a matter of personal disappointment that a newspaper group has now decided that allegations about my personal life should be made public.”

The tabloid, the Times and other British newspapers reported Browne, who has close ties to Prime Minister Tony Blair, had lied to a court about how he and Chevalier met. The Mail also published documents that show Browne allegedly used BP resources to help Chevalier’s business, urged BP executives to serve on its board and made other questionable business and personal decisions. Browne’s resignation closely resembles the series of events that lead to former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey’s resignation in 2004 after he acknowledged an affair with a former aide. McGreevey appointed Golan Cipel as his Homeland Security adviser despite a lack of qualifications for the position. Browne, unlike McGreevey, led a corporation. But he, like the former governor, made a series of decisions that ultimately lead to his downfall.

The focus of this story should remain on Browne’s alleged conduct and not his sexual orientation. The question of outing remains a sensitive topic for many LGBT people in this country and around the world. Some writers, such as Michelangelo Signorile, argue it is unethical not to report on a person’s sexual orientation while others, such as Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, urge journalists to exercise extreme caution on this topic. The debate will obviously continue but the story behind Browne’s resignation will certainly continue to dominate headlines as it continues to unfold.

New York Governor No-Show at LGBT Rights Lobby Day

More than 1,000 LGBT rights supporters from across New York State gathered in Albany yesterday for the Empire State Pride Agenda’s annual lobbying day. Activists continue to celebrate the bill Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced late last month that would extend marriage to same-sex couples in the state but his absence added an interesting side note to an otherwise successful day. Spokesperson Christine Anderson told the New York Times the governor did not meet with activists because he was in San Francisco to attend a series of fundraising meetings. Spitzer undoubtedly did not snub activists. But Times reporter Nicholas Confessore correctly noted in his blog Spitzer’s absence has a “Honey, I’d love to go look at fabric samples with you, but I have to, um, alphabetize my CDs today.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Beltway Powerbrokers Anxiously Await Release of Alleged Madam's Client List

Washington insiders remain on edge as they await the expected release of an alleged madam's client list later this week. Federal prosecutors indicted Jeane Palfrey, whom the media has dubbed the D.C. Madam, earlier this year in connection to an alleged prostitution ring she ran in the District of Columbia. The alleged madam gave ABC News her client list as she reportedly plans to call many of her clients to the stand during her trial.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias became the first casualty of this brewing scandal late last month with his abrupt resignation after he confirmed to the network he was a regular client of Palfrey's escort service "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage."

Tobias oversaw the Bush administration's controversial HIV prevention policy that urges abstinence and faithfulness over condoms and demanded an 'anti-prostitution' pledge from any United States-based prevention organization that sought federal funds for their programs. There is no problem with consenting adults who engage in sex behind closed doors. But Tobias is certainly not the first high profile Washington official to engage in personal and political hypocrisy at the expense of his own reputation.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr [R-Ga.] co-sponsored the so-called Defense of Marriage Act despite his own divorces; former President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law in 1996 despite his own extra-marital transgressions with former White House intern Monica Lewinksy that almost cost him his presidency and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich [R-Ga.], himself married three times, admitted to Focus on the Famly founder James Dobson earlier this year he had an affair with a former Congressional aide while he oversaw impeachment proceedings against Clinton. Former National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard resigned last November after a former male prostitute told a Denver radio station he had sex with the disgraced minister and used crystal meth with him. Haggard was a powerful proponent of the anti-marriage for same-sex couples amendment Colorado voters passed last November. Yet his downfall represents one of the most tragic cases of personal hypocrisy in recent years.

Haggard's personal transgressions, like Gingrich's, Clinton's, Barr's or Tobias', are not the issue in and of themselves. They become the issue, however, in light of their public statements that support of harmful legislation, policies or initiatives. Washington will continue it's anxious wait until ABC News discloses Palfrey's client list. But perhaps this latest scandal will remind those inside the Beltway who make decisions based on their so-called personal convictions that their actions speak much louder than words.