Friday, November 30, 2007

Man Takes Hostages at Clinton Campaign Office in N.H.

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.

Boy in Bushwick Commemorates World AIDS Day

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Broadway Strike Hits Theater District Hard

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

Moroccan Officials Arrest Gay 'Bride'

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 vs. Marriage

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 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 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 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 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."

Baxley agreed.

"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

A New Hampshire Turkey Day

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

Is Brian Williams Anti-Gay?

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

Remembering Our Dead

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

LGBT New Yorkers Make Their Political Mark

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

Reflections on Marriage

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

Frank Endorses Clinton

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

Iranian Politician Calls for Gay Execution

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

More on ENDA

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

HRC Backs Trans-Exclusive ENDA

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

Jamaican Columnist Equates Movement for LGBT Rights to European Colonialism

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

The Post-Coming Out Era?

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

New Hampshire Tour: Part II

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

New Hampshire Bound (Again)

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.