What a year it was! With less than 48 hours until 2009, the annual tradition of looking back upon the year that was is in full swing. The economy, President-elect Barack Obama's historic election and continued violence in the Middle East, Pakistan and other countries around the world are three of the myriad of stories that dominated headlines in 2008. Below is a look back.
President-elect Barack Obama's historic election on Nov. 4 represents a monumental shift in American politics. More than 50 percent of Americans voted for the former community organizer under the increasingly dyer economic situation, an extremely unpopular incumbent president and growing disillusionment. Obama's election presents a stark rejection of Bush Republicanism and a growing call for change among those who have grown increasingly tired of the status quo. Obama takes office in less than a month. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to keep the promises he made on the campaign trail. It remains clear, however, Obama has the wind at his back as he prepares to enter the White House in 2008.
The only 2008 story that could possibly overshadow Obama's meteoric rise to the White House is the expanding economic crisis. The other shoe dropped with Lehman Brother's collapse in September. Detroit and Wall Street have fallen to their knees (with some embarrassing and frankly infuriating revelations along the way) as they seek bailouts from skeptical Washington lawmakers. President Bush appeared to abandon his free-market principles as the writing on the wall became increasingly clear. Unemployment has increased and consumer confidence continues to plummet.
New York remains one of the crisis' epicenters. Officials have estimated up to 200,000 people will lose their jobs. Both the city and state are facing severe budget shortfalls because of Wall Street's implosion--all in all there is a sense a dark cloud with precious few silver linings will continue to hover over Gotham in the new year.
November 4 was an arguable watershed moment in American history, but this day ended bittersweet for LGBT activists with Proposition 8's passage in California. The amendment, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, came less than six months after marriage for same-sex couples became legal in the Golden State.
Outraged LGBT activists, citizens and their supporters immediately began to speculate as to why Prop 8 passed. They pointed fingers to the black voters, the Mormon Church and eventually those who organized a largely ineffective and arguably incompetent campaign. And this anger manifested itself into widespread protests across the country in what some have dubbed Stonewall 2.0.
The immediate anti-Prop 8 fervor has appeared to dissipate somewhat, but it remains clear marriage for same-sex couples will continue to garner headlines in 2009. New Jersey and New York are among the states in which lawmakers are expected to debate the issue. The California Supreme Court is also slated to rule on lawsuits challenging Prop 8 in the coming year.
Politics is often about personalities, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin generated more reaction than anyone else possibly outside of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. This apparent political neophyte, with her Tina Fey-esque looks and apparently picture perfect family, seemingly appeared out of nowhere to become Sen. John McCain's vice presidential nominee. The late night jokes about her pregnant daughter Bristol, her frame less glasses, her Alaskan accent and other aspects of her life came almost as fast as one can mutter 'You betcha.'
In all seriousness, Palin's veep nomination represented an extremely cynical attempt to energize the Republican Party's socially conservative base that remained lukewarm at best to McCain's campaign. It worked to an extent, but Palin unfortunately became a political laughing stock among moderate voters, pundits and even some Republicans.
Heath Ledger's tragic death in January, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's spectacular downfall in March, controversy over National Parks Service rangers issuing citations in Fire Island's infamous Meatrack in June and José Sucuzhañay's senseless death in Bushwick earlier this month are among the myriad of stories I covered in 2008. Some of the more memorable moments of the year include Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese's decision to include me in his Fire Island Pines fundraising pitch, a media trip to Key West in October, covering Obama's election in Times Square and discussing control of the New York State Senate on the Brian Lehrer Show.
2008 is certainly a year that will go down in the history books. It was an extremely turbulent year that brought hardship to millions of people. 2008 also brought hope to others who had decided the status quo was no longer an acceptable option. And it is with that optimistic tone I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
What a year it was! With less than 48 hours until 2009, the annual tradition of looking back upon the year that was is in full swing. The economy, President-elect Barack Obama's historic election and continued violence in the Middle East, Pakistan and other countries around the world are three of the myriad of stories that dominated headlines in 2008. Below is a look back.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I have returned to the blog after nearly a week away for Christmas, but the news of continued Israeli air strikes against Hamas strongholds in the Gaza Strip remain front page news.
The Israel Defense Forces began its campaign on Saturday in response to continued rocket attacks against cities and towns near the Gaza Strip. The territory's main university, Hamas security compounds and tunnels used to smuggle weapons and other products from Egypt are among the places Israeli airplanes bombed. The Gaza blitz has killed more than an estimated 300 people and injured more than 1,400. Retaliatory rockets launched into Israel have killed two Israelis and wounded several others. And the IDF is reportedly planning a possible ground offensive into Gaza.
The Arab League joined Spain and other countries in their condemnation of the Israeli campaign. France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United Nations have called upon both sides to return to the cease fire that ended Dec. 20. The United States blamed Hamas for its continued rocket attacks into Israel.
The arguably disproportionate air strikes in Gaza are certainly a cause for concern for the sheer fact more than 50 Palestinian civilians have been killed. The campaign also perpetuates a cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians for decades that will not abate if both sides continue to fail to show restraint on behalf of their own citizens. The scenes that continue to emerge from Gaza are disturbing. They will almost certainly continue if both sides fail to pull back from the latest precipice on which they currently find themselves.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I've been in Boston and New Hampshire the last few days ahead of Christmas, but one of the highlights of the trip remains the fact I finally saw "Milk."
The movie remains one of the most brilliantly made films I have seen in a long-time, but the arguably prophetic lessons it provides to activists within the movement for LGBT rights provide an extremely powerful road map they should follow. One of the main themes with which I walked away is the necessity to explicitly include LGBT people in any campaign to secure their rights or to fight against any efforts to curtail them.
"Milk"'s release coincides with the continued aftermath of the bitter passage of Proposition 8 in California and the ineffective and frankly incompetent campaign that failed to defeat it. Activists and others within the movement continue to point fingers, soul search and look forward to pending efforts to reverse Prop 8's passage, but these figures must follow the example Harvey Milk set in his activism that helped defeat Proposition 6 by an overwhelming margin in the Golden State in 1978. To neglect the very constituents they profess to serve is disingenuous and arguably indicative of their own internalized homophobia.
Friday, December 19, 2008
With the turmoil of the last few months showing little sign of abatement, it is arguably necessary to step back, take a deep breath and enjoy the season. I loathe snow (for anyone who doesn't know me very well), but I confess the snow that has fallen on the city in the last few days left a beautiful and festive carpet of white. Below are a few shots from Bushwick and Manhattan taken over the last few days.
Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick [Dec. 19, 2008]
Not a day to hang out in the park [Dec. 19, 2008]
A sign of warmer times [Dec. 19, 2008]
A dusting of snow on West 13th Street in Manhattan [Dec. 16, 2008]
Thursday, December 18, 2008
With preparations for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration well underway, the incoming commander-in-chief has ignited controversy over his selection of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver his inaugural invocation.
Activists and organizations within the movement for LGBT rights immediately denounced Obama's decision to include the controversial minister in his inauguration. Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., backed Proposition 8 in California. He has also made controversial and arguably inflammatory statements that, among other things, attempted to link marriage for gays and lesbians to incest and pedophilia.
Obama clearly the arguable good will of the majority of Americans--including those who identify as LGBT--at his back as he prepares to take office. He also campaigned on an intoxicating message of change and hope that certainly resonated with the majority of LGBT Americans who had become disillusioned over the last eight years, but Warren's selection to deliver the inaugural invocation amounts to an arguable slap in the face to those who put their faith with Obama that he would truly listen to LGBT concerns and requests. Obama is arguably adhering to the advice of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] and other party leaders who have urged for his administration to govern from the middle. Warren's selection is perhaps a politically motivated attempt to achieve this ideal, but a clear case can also be made rights for LGBT Americans, which Warren appears to oppose, have become a moderate issue.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
As fallout from José Sucuzhañay's death continues to unfold, the New York Police Department continues to search for the four men who brutally beat the Ecuadorian immigrant on a Bushwick street corner early Dec. 7 as he and his brother walked home.
The New York Times today published an editorial titled "A Lynching in Brooklyn" that echoes the public outrage New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and a myriad of others have expressed since news of the attack broke. Roughly 500 people marched Sunday in Bushwick to pay tribute to Sucuzhañay and to demand justice.
Sucuzhañay's death has obviously sparked widespread condemnation and outrage across the city, but let's hope this outpouring translates into some sort of concrete action to ensure these crimes become a thing of the past in our city and in our country.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Less than 24 hours after news of José Sucuzhañay's death broke, people from across the city gathered in Bushwick to pay tribute to the Ecuadorian immigrant and to demand an end to hate and bias-motivated hate crimes. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn [D-Chelsea], City Councilwoman Diana Reyna [D-Bushwick], Congressman Anthony Weiner, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea], New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson and representatives from various Ecuadorian, LGBT and Latino advocacy organizations were among those who gathered at Grove Street and Myrtle Avenue. And several hundred people subsequently marched to hold vigil on the corner where four men in an SUV viciously beat Sucuzhañay with a baseball bat and bottles early on Dec. 7.
Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Bushwick on Dec. 14 to pay tribute to José Sucuzhañay and to demand an end to hate and bias crimes.
Make the Road New York co-executive director Ana Maria Archila urges New Yorkers to come together against hate crimes.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn [D-Chelsea]
Joselo Lucero, whose brother Marcelo was killed last month allegedly by a group of Long Island teenagers, was among those who took part in the Bushwick vigil.
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered were among the groups that marched down Myrtle Avenue
Hundreds of people attend a vigil for José Sucuzhañay on Kossuth Place.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
As law enforcement officials continue to search for the men who allegedly left a Bushwick man brain dead in what they describe as an anti-gay and anti-Latino hate crime early Sunday morning, the Anti-Violence Project, Make the Road New York and a coalition of other community and activist groups have organized a march and vigil on Sunday, Dec. 14.
The vigil will take place at Make the Road's park on the corner of Grove Street and Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick at 2 p.m. Marchers will then proceed to Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place--the corner where police say a group of four men viciously beat Jose Sucuzhanay with a baseball bat and bottles and kicked him while his brother ran for help.
In the meantime, the NYPD is offering a $27,000 reward to anyone who provides information that will assist it in the apprehension of those responsible. And New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined City Councilmember Diana Reyna [D-Bushwick] and officers at the Myrtle Avenue subway station this morning to hand flyers about the attack to strap hangers. [Photos courtesy of Eunic Ortiz]
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The reported deal between presumptive New York State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and the so-called dissident "Gang of Three" to not introduce marriage legislation in exchange for their support would be nothing more than another example of political wheeling and dealing in Albany if it proves to be true. That said, it has certainly put the long-time supporter of marriage for same-sex couples in an extremely difficult position.
WNYC host Brian Lehrer moderated a segment on his show yesterday titled "The News from Albany" with the New York Daily News' Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett, El Diario opinion page editor Erica Gonzalez and myself. Attached is a link to the entire segment.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The news of the death of the man brutally attacked on a Bushwick street early Sunday morning while he and his brother walked home left my roommate and I agasp and frankly furious inside our Jefferson Street apartment this morning. Authorities have identified the 31-year-old Ecuadorian man as Jose Sucuzhanay. And the New York Times reported he died at Elmhurst Hospital as a result of extensive brain damage and skull fractures.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Councilmember Diana Reyna [D-Bushwick] and legions of other elected officials, clergy, activists and community organizations have expressed shock and anger over the attack as I reported yesterday on EDGE New York.
Four men in an SUV attacked Jose Sucuzhany, 31, at Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place early Dec. 7 as he and his brother walked home "arm-and-arm" from a local bar.
This attack hits particularly close to home since my apartment is roughly 10 blocks from where it took place. I feel largely comfortable as a openly gay man living in Bushwick, but this utterly tragic attack provides New Yorkers a stark reminder we are not immune from homophobia and hatred. And Sucuzhany's tragic death mandates a collective response to ensure an end to hate-based violence.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Hate crimes of any kind are among the most difficult stories on which to report, and their proximity to one's home makes them that much more difficult to cover.
Such is the case with the attack on an Ecuadorian man on Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place early yesterday morning that left him in critical condition at Elmhurst Hospital. The New York Police Department and local politicians reported four men attacked the man with a baseball bat and bottles and kicked him as he walked home with his brother after a night out. The New York Times reported the two men were "arm-in-arm" in order to support each other as they walked down the street. The newspaper echoed New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who said the men's attackers used anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs during the assault.
Attached is the story I just posted to EDGE New York.
A 31-year-old Ecuadorian man remains in critical condition at Elmhurst Hospital after four men allegedly attacked him and his brother with baseball bats and bottles near their Bushwick home early Sunday morning in what police are investigating as a anti-gay and anti-Latino hate crime.
The New York Police Department did not immediately return request for comment, but New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told reporters at a City Hall press conference today four men in an SUV attacked the brothers on the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place as they walked home. A law enforcement official told the New York Times the men were walking "arm-in-arm" to support each other after a night of drinking. The paper further reported one of the men broke a bottle over the head of the 31-year-old man before his accomplishes beat him with a baseball bat and kicked him while his brother ran for help.
The attackers, who remain at-large, reportedly used anti-LGBT and anti-Latino slurs during the assault.
"Those who perpetrated this crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Quinn said.
City Councilmember Diana Reyna [D-Bushwick] joined Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea], City Councilmember Letitia James [Working Families-Fort Greene], state Assemblymember Carmen Arroyo [D-Bronx], New York City Anti-Violence Project executive director Sharon Stapel and other elected officials, clergy and representatives of various Ecuadorian and Latino advocacy and community organizations at the press conference. Reyna echoed Quinn’s outrage.
"It is unfathomable and horrible we have to deal with issues of hatred that are destroying our society," she said.
Located in Northeast Brooklyn along the L, J, M, and Z trains, Bushwick is home to a significant Latino-Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Ecuadorians and other recent immigrants from Central and South America-population. The neighborhood has begun to gentrify in recent years due to a lower crime rate, its proximity to Manhattan and an abundance of converted warehouse lofts, new condos and other relatively affordable housing stock.
This attack comes a month after a group of seven Long Island teenagers allegedly attacked Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue. Local authorities have charged Jeffrey Conroy with second-degree murder as a hate crime for allegedly fatally stabbing Lucero in the chest on Nov. 8. They also charged him and his alleged co-conspirators with hate crime and conspiracy counts.
Karina Claudio, an organizer for Gays & Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered, told EDGE her group and the Audre Lorde Project plan to organize a vigil in the coming days. She added she feels anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT sentiments remain all too common.
"We deal with both in our organization," Claudio said. "We are very concerned about what happened."
Friday, December 5, 2008
Politics is an all too cynical exercise here in New York and across the country. It often comes down to a series of politically advantageous compromises. And presumptive New York State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's decision to not introduce legislation to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples in order to win over a handful of dissident Democrats who had said they would oppose his election reflects this reality.
I posted a story on EDGE New York earlier this afternoon that examines the decision more closely. It's safe to say activists will almost certainly have a lot to say about this reported decision.
An agreement reached between state Sen. Malcolm Smith [D-St. Albans] and a handful of dissident Democrats over his presumptive election as Senate Majority Leader has reportedly pushed marriage for same-sex couples off next year’s legislative agenda.
Businessman Thomas Golisano and Congressman Gregory Meeks convened a meeting between Smith, state Sens. Ruben Diaz, Sr., [D-Bronx] and Carl Kruger [D-Brooklyn] and Senator-elect Pedro Espada, Jr., [D-Bronx]-dubbed the "Gang of Three" by local media-in Manhattan on Thursday. Governor David Paterson also attended a portion of the three-hour meeting.
The New York Times reported Espada would become vice chair of the powerful Rules Committee, which decides which legislation will be introduced in the Senate.
"The meeting held today involved rules changes proposed by [Sen.] Smith which will result in Senate reform and the election of Malcolm Smith as [Senate Majority] Leader," Smith spokesperson Hank Sheinkopf said in a statement.
He did not say whether marriage was discussed during the meeting, but the Daily News reported Smith will not introduce a marriage bill. The newspaper added he would announce the legislation does not have sufficient support to pass in the Senate.
A Smith staffer who asked to remain anonymous declined to disclose to EDGE whether the announcement would provide political cover for the agreement the presumptive Senate Majority Leader reached with Diaz, Espada and Kruger to not introduce the bill. Democrats control both legislative houses and the governor’s office for the first time since the Great Depression. The Assembly passed a marriage bill in June 2007. And local activists remain confident the Senate will vote on the issue next year.
"We are still awaiting the final details of the announced state Senate leadership deal," Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle said in a statement released shortly after news of the agreement broke. "We would expect that any rumors that marriage equality was somehow a part of this deal are just that-rumors."
Smith has repeatedly expressed his support for marriage for same-sex couples. Marriage Equality New York executive director Cathy Marino-Thomas added she feels this position has not changed.
"We are awaiting confirmation from [Sen.] Smith that his promise to bring marriage equality to the Senate floor for a vote once there is confirmation that this bill as the votes to pass is a fact," she said. "In the meantime, we must continue to work to bring the New York State Senators to our side of this issue."
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Mary Myers Cole, first on right, poses with other Fire Island Pines women at Sip n' Twirl in May.
Fire Island remains one of the most beautiful places in the world (literally) and those who live on the narrow barrier beach remain some of the most memorable and generous people I have had the pleasure to met. And on this vein, I was saddened to learn last night Mary Myers Cole recently passed away.
She and her late husband Sylvan were involved with the Fire Island Pines Arts Project and a number of other community organizations in the Pines. Mary was known for her bold fashion sense and for her love of the Pines and especially its residents. And this admiration came through during an interview for the Fire Island News earlier this year about former Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association second vice president of operations Ron McKenna's sudden death in July 2007 and the passing of his partner, Perry Hamilton, a few months later.
"Ron McKenna was the angel of the Pines, and Perry was the angel behind the angel in so many ways," she said.
I have no doubt many Pines residents share the same sentiment about Mary as they mourn her passing. Rest in peace Mary!
Monday, December 1, 2008
I'm back to Brooklyn after five days with my family and friends in New Hampshire and Boston, but the world honestly seems a bit different this mild December morning.
The images from the Mumbai terrorist attacks on Wednesday night served as an all too stark reminder this scourge remains an all too real threat to people around the world. Jdimytai Damour's tragic death at a Long Island Wal-Mart on Friday morning highlights the unfortunate effects frenzied American consumerism can have. And the economic crisis continues to unfold.
There remains much for which we can be grateful this holiday season. I am personally thankful for my health and for the fact I have a warm place to sleep at night. I remain blessed to have friends and family who love and support me. And I am happy I live in New York. These things continue to provide comfort in an ever-changing and often cruel world.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I will be in New Hampshire this weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, but I would like to take a moment to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday. Let's all take a moment to reflect upon the things for which we can be thankful this holiday season.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The experience of the majority of gay and lesbian New Yorkers in the bubble that is the Big Apple is comparatively easy compared to their brothers and sisters in other parts of the United States and the world, but a piece of homophobic graffiti upon which I stumbled on an iPod advertisement on the side of a phone booth on East 16th Street near the Coffee Shop yesterday afternoon once again shattered that ideal.
As a journalist, I am routinely reminded of the homophobia and other forms of discrimination gays and lesbians continue to face. I would like to think New York is a city in which homophobia does not exist. I would also like to assume the young people I suspect scrawled the graffiti are aware of the diverse city in which they live. Their actions are a stark reminder that homophobia remains alive and well... even in New York.
Monday, November 24, 2008
As speculation over the future of the New York Blade continues to grow among more than one gay media circles in Gotham, my EDGE colleague Joe Siegel posted a story on Friday that confirmed what almost everyone had concluded months ago: the former InNewsweekly has officially folded.
Former InNewsweekly editor Fred Kuhr hired me as the once venerable newspaper's New Hampshire correspondent more than five years ago. I had just completed my junior year at the University of New Hampshire and this hir launched my career in journalism. I owe much to the former InNewsweekly, and its demise at the hands of a greedy, incompetent and arguably corrupt publisher who bought the paper in late 2006 and drove it into the ground is a sad day for both its readers and LGBT media as a whole.
There is certainly no joy associated with what happened in the Hub. And the New York Blade's speculated demise would be an equally unfortunate calamity for almost everyone involved. The stark lesson remains, however, is karma brings its just desserts to those who arguably deserve it the most.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
With the issue of marriage for same-sex couples in the forefront, JoAnn Shain of Marriage Equality New York expresses hope these unions will soon be possible in the Empire State in an op-ed posted today on EDGE New York.
Our nation made history on Nov. 4 when it elected its first African American president. Hope looms large that a visionary thinker with a progressive mandate will soon be the leader of the free world.
The reality of significant setbacks in our civil rights around the country tempered the elation so many in the LGBT community felt from Obama’s win. Most notable is the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Anti-gay marriage groups introduced this ballot measure in response to the California Supreme Court’s historic ruling in May that legalized same-sex marriage. Spurred by an 11th hour surge of money and support from the Mormon Church, Prop 8 effectively throws into limbo the newly minted marriages of nearly 18 thousand gay and lesbian couples in California.
Bigotry’s sting was felt in other states as well, namely Florida and Arizona, which approved their own anti-gay ballot measures. There are now 30 states with Constitutional bans on same-sex unions. Not to be outdone, Arkansas voters approved a measure designed to bar gay men and lesbians from adopting children.
The good news is that the East Coast is fast becoming ground zero for marriage equality. New York is virtually surrounded by neighboring jurisdictions that offer some form of legal recognition of gay relationships. Connecticut is now the second state after Massachusetts to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire offer civil unions, a well-meaning but ambiguous legal construct which falls far short of marriage. Collectively, these states can be said to comprise a "gay freedom trail" of sorts. So where is New York in this mix?
Undeniably, our state has a long and proud tradition of bold leadership in many areas of civil rights. The village of Seneca Falls, for example, was the site of the nation’s first women’s rights convention in 1848, and became the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement. Hundreds of New Yorkers traveled down South to help register black voters during the Freedom Summer in 1964. Two of them were murdered for their efforts. New York passed the most progressive abortion law in the country in 1970 that made the state a bastion of safe and legal abortions some four years before the Supreme Court enacted Roe vs. Wade. New York has been in the forefront of allowing non-biological parents to adopt the children they help raise with their same-sex partners through second parent adoption.
By contrast, New York’s leadership in equal marriage rights has been inconsistent, marked by both inspiring highs and disappointing lows.
Following Massachusetts’ lead, Lambda Legal brought a groundbreaking lawsuit against New York City Clerk Victor Robles in 2004 that sought the right to obtain marriage licenses for same-sex couples. State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled in favor of the case, Hernandez vs. Robles, in Feb. 2005. The jubilation felt by New York’s gay and lesbian couples in the aftermath of this stunning victory, however, was short lived because the decision was immediately stayed and quickly appealed by the city’s attorneys. The Hernandez case eventually reached New York’s high court.
The state Court of Appeals ruled against Hernandez, along with similar lawsuits from around New York, in a four to two vote in July 2006. With this decision, the court put the issue of marriage equality squarely in the hands of the state legislature.
Since then, steady progress toward full marriage equality for same-sex couples has been made in Albany. The Democratic-controlled state Assembly voted on and passed a marriage equality bill last year. Governor David Paterson ordered all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state in May. His directive gave New York the odd distinction of recognizing same-sex marriage without actually providing it for its citizens.
On Election Day, New York voters ushered in a Democratic majority in the state Senate. In doing so, years of Republican control of the Senate came to an end. This change has inspired renewed hope that the marriage equality bill, passed by the Assembly and supported by the governor, will come to the senate floor for a vote in the not too distant future. However, trouble is brewing in the ranks of the fledgling Democratic leadership. A small group of senators who oppose marriage equality are trying to block the rise of Malcolm Smith to the post of Senate Majority Leader. Smith is a staunch supporter of gay marriage who has vowed to bring the marriage bill up for a vote in the senate. Time will tell how this political maneuvering will play out.
If there is anything positive about the passage of Prop 8, it is the inspiring groundswell of support for same-sex marriage it has generated here in New York and across the country. In the past few days, thousands of people have turned out in cities nationwide to lend their voices to the ongoing struggle for full equality for gay men and lesbians. If this trend continues, LGBT New Yorkers have real reason to believe that The Empire State will once again be in the forefront of providing full civil rights to all its citizens.
JoAnn Shain is secretary of the board for Marriage Equality New York. She and her partner, Mary Jo Kennedy, were co-plaintiffs in the Hernandez vs. Robles case.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
As I come to terms with my own mini-financial crisis, journalist and blogger Chris Crain notes on his blog Spanish Queen Sofia used less than flattering words to describe gay men in passages contained within Pilar Urbano's book "The Queen Up Close."
The Greek-born monarch said she failed to understand why gay men should feel proud to be gay. She also questioned why her fellow Spaniards choose to partake in pride celebrations around the country each year. The palace was quick to point out it feels Urbano took the queen's comments out of context, but I can only imagine the initial response of all those chicos con pluma in Chueca and Eixample towards their monarch. It would almost certainly be cause for another sangria and tapa at one of the innumerable Granadino bars at which I spent a great deal of time during the months I lived in Andalucía. Priceless!
Monday, November 17, 2008
I'm fighting a bit of a cold this morning, but attached is an article posted to the Fire Island News' Web site about porn impresario Michael Lucas' marriage to long-time partner Richard Winger on Oct. 30 in West Hollywood. Their wedding took place less than a week before California voters passed Prop 8. Lucas and Winger used their marriage to raise funds for Equality California and their campaign to block the amendment. The ever-press savvy couple plans to continue their fight against Prop 8.
Fire Island Pines residents Michael Lucas and Richard Winger certainly know how to make a statement. And this fall it included a very political love story… their wedding.
West Hollywood (Calif.) Councilmember John Duran married Lucas, president of Lucas Entertainment, and Winger, president emeritus of the [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] Community Center in lower Manhattan, in a ceremony in Los Angeles on Oct. 30.
The couple said they decided to tie the knot in California because New York does not recognize marriages for same-sex couples performed in the Empire State. Lucas and Winger added another reason for their decision is to draw attention to Proposition 8, an amendment to the state Constitution that sought to ban nuptials for gays and lesbians.
Voters approved Prop 8 by a 52 to 48 percent margin. Marriages for same-sex couples had been legal in California since June, and Prop 8 put a stop to them in the Golden State.
Lucas and Winger’s wedding doubled as a fundraiser for Equality California, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and it’s “No On Prop 8” campaign in the days leading up to the election.
"Of course our decision to get married is politically motivated," Lucas told the News in an e-mail. "We could have gotten married at any time in the past eight years…, but I think it's particularly important to do it now because of Proposition 8."
Lucas and Winger are the latest in a series of high profile gay and lesbian couples to marry in California ahead of Election Day. Ellen DeGeneres married Portia de Rossi at their Beverly Hills home in August, while “Star Trek” star George Takei married his long-time partner Brad Altman in Los Angeles in September.
Lucas was quick to condemn the vote—and especially those who supported Prop 8.
“California is full of rednecks and gay people should have fought more fiercely,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Christian right got more money for their ugly ads and conservatives got their way.”
The couple plans to celebrate their marriage at a gathering in New York later this month. Lucas added he feels Prop 8’s passage may provide a silver lining for activists in New York.
“On the brighter side, Democrats in New York won the state Senate,” he said. “What we lost on the West Coast may be a gain for the East.”
Friday, November 14, 2008
As the fallout over the passage of Prop 8 continues to unfold across the country, the movement for LGBT rights has turned to New York as the next state to potentially extend marriage for same-sex couples. The question as to when lawmakers in Albany will take up the potentially divisive issue remains somewhat uncertain with the economic crisis and the multi-billion dollar budget deficit, but activists and pundits with whom I spoke this week for my EDGE New York on the marriage timeline indicate legislators will most likely debate same-sex nuptials sometime in the spring.
As activists continue to lick their wounds from the passage of Proposition 8 and other anti-gay ballot initiatives, the movement for LGBT rights has begun to shift its focus to New York as the next state to possibly extend marriage to same-sex couples. Some observers caution, however, Albany lawmakers may not make gay and lesbian nuptials an immediate legislative priority.
Marriage Equality New York executive director Cathy Marino-Thomas said she expects legislators will debate the issue once they address the burgeoning economic crisis and pass a budget in the spring. She added she feels marriage will become a legislative priority if Democrats elect state Sen. Malcolm Smith [D-St. Albans] as the next Senate Majority Leader. Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., [D-Bronx] and a handful of other dissident Democrats known as the "Gang of Four" have raised objections to Smith’s possible election based, in part, because he supports marriage for same-sex couples.
"It’s really up in the air with this issue with Ruben Diaz," Marino-Thomas said.
WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer agreed. He added the economy will almost certainly remain the dominant issue in Albany in the coming months.
"People in the new Democratic majority won’t want to be seen as pushing through a social issues agenda that they may have to get out in front of their constituents on right away," he told EDGE in a recent interview. "Everybody is going to need to look like they’re dealing with an emergency that’s an emergency. When they get some big things done on [the economy,] they can then figure out where they can spend political capital on other things."
With a majority in the state Senate, Democrats control both legislative houses and the governor’s office for the first time since the Great Depression. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced a marriage bill in April 2007. The Assembly later passed it by an 85 to 61 margin.
Governor David Paterson supports marriage for same-sex couples. And he issued an executive order in May that mandated state agencies recognize gay and lesbian nuptials legally performed in other jurisdictions, but Lehrer speculated some lawmakers who have publicly supported marriage for same-sex couples could have second thoughts as a result of Prop 8’s passage.
"I wonder if all the Democrats-or enough Democrats-would line up to pass it anyway only because as we saw in California, there’s still opposition out there in pretty liberal states," he said as he further questioned whether some New York politicians may take into account whether their constituents would support a vote in favor of legislation to extend marriage to gays and lesbians. "Even if there hasn’t been polling done in every district, they are maybe going to look at what happened in California and say hmm, am I going to put myself at risk at this time."
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in June found 42 percent of New York voters said they support marriage for same-sex couples. Twenty-one of those surveyed said they feel the state should not legally recognize same-sex relationships.
Former ACT UP member Jay Blotcher expects Albany lawmakers will make marriage a priority next year. He co-organized an anti-Prop 8 protest against the Mormon Church on the Upper West Side that drew up to 10,000 people on Nov. 12. Blotcher added he feels activists will continue to pressure legislators to take action on this issue.
"There is a real groundswell of energy to bring to bear on Albany to move ahead on marriage equality," he said. "All the elements are there for marriage equality in New York State. I know at least 10,000 people who want to make it happen."
Marino-Thomas added she feels fallout over Prop 8 may actually benefit her organization and other New York activists.
"All of the attention being paid to the blatant discrimination... will ultimately help people better understand the issue and see it as the civil rights issue it is," Marino-Thomas said. "This can only help the movement in its entirety."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Channel 7 here in New York reported thousands of people took to the streets of the Upper West Side last night to protest Prop 8 and the role the Mormon Church played in its passage. The Associated Press was among the other news outlets to report on the march, but one curious observation is 1010 WINS covered it as part of its regular traffic report. The announcer kept telling listeners to avoid the area around Columbus Circle because of a protest. Strange indeed!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Thousands of people took to the streets of Manhattan's Upper West Side tonight to protest Proposition 8 and the role they feel the Mormon Church played in its passage. Organizers estimated more than 10,000 people marched down Broadway and on surrounding streets shortly after 7 p.m., but some observers said more than 16,000 turned out. Attached are pictures and a video taken during the peaceful march.
My friend Andres Duque has also posted an account of tonight's protest on his blog Blabbeando.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
As LGBT activists and their supporters continue to protest against the passage of Proposition 8 in California last week, a particularly gruesome murder of an Ecuadorian man on Long Island over the weekend serves as a particularly heinous reminder of the impact hate speech can have.
Suffolk County police say seven teenagers allegedly beat and stabbed Marcello Lucero, 37, to death near the Long Island Railroad station in Patchogue late on Saturday night. Officials indicate the teens came into the village from out of town to beat-up Mexicans" and other Latinos.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was quick to condemn the killing, but an editorial in today's New York Times editorial page correctly points out his long-standing opposition to undocumented immigrants in the county. His anti-immigration rhetoric has strained the county's relationship with its growing Latino population, but Levy is far from alone in his arguably misguided attempt to scapegoat others from their own bureaucratic and municipal failings.
Lucero's murder is an all too obvious tragedy that highlights the much broader societal problems that still exist in this country around race, class, immigration status and other identities. Barack Obama's election last week has given many hope the steady stream of rhetoric against those on the margins of this country will abate, but Lucero's death is a stark reminder there is much work left to be done--and this task includes those in California who continue to use the N word and other racially inflammatory language and rhetoric to scapegoat black voters for Prop 8's passage.
Monday, November 10, 2008
There has been much discussion from within the progressive movement and especially the movement for LGBT rights about the role people of color played in Proposition 8's passage in California last Tuesday. And activist Jasmyne Cannick ignited a firestorm of controversy with a scathing op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 8.
Below is a commentary written by long-time source and activist Herndon Davis that examines some of the issues Cannick and others have raised in recent days with regards to whether the campaign to block Prop 8 did enough to influence black Californians . The debate will obviously continue to rage as those within the campaign examine why it failed and LGBT activists and others across the country continue to take stock of what happened, what else could have been done and even demand arguable accountability.
LGBT Community Must Blame Itself, Not Blacks, for Prop. 8
By Herndon Davis
As a black and openly gay advocate/activist and resident of Los Angeles, I watched as Prop. 8 in California, which now allows for a legal ban against same-sex marriage within the state, was voted into reality. I also watched how within 24 hours many LGBT activists squarely placed the blame on black residents who voted 70 percent in favor of the measure.
I further watched and read how black gay protesters who were against the same-sex ban and in favor of same-sex marriage were called the “N” word during a demonstration march in Westwood.
And finally, I've read how blogger Jasmyne Cannick was assailed by everyone from City Councilman Duran of West Hollywood to fellow LGBT bloggers for her recent Los Angeles Times commentary concerning race relations within the LGBT community and its effect upon Prop 8.
My advice to the LGBT community, the organizers of “No on Prop 8,” the many different LGBT funders, and the remaining members of the “Gay Mafia” is that they should take seriously the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic factors of black and people of color communities as it endeavors further in its marriage equality quest.
As a advocate, activist and now a consultant within the LGBT arena, I can tell you from personal experience, there is a deep arrogance and belief among many within the LGBT community that black communities should instantly whip onto the civil rights bus for the LGBT community just because we too are a minority.
In some corners of our diverse LGBT community there is a blatant disregard for culture, religion, and the oppression of other racial and ethnic groups. Many working class black and Latinos are struggling to pay rent, put food on the table and dodging bullets to lift their eyes up from their burdens to see a reason and a connection to the white faced and seemingly privileged LGBT to support marriage equality.
These are points, issues and big chunks of truth that the LGBT community seems ill-prepared to tackle. In this new age of Obama, there still lies ahead a much deeper conversation concerning race relations that LGBT communities seem to quickly shy away from. So instead of focusing anger towards black communities, the LGBT community must seriously take a long, hard look at itself. Here a few things for starters:
1. For Prop 8, why couldn’t the LGBT community get the queen of all American cities, San Francisco, to vote in higher numbers on such a crucial vote?
Also please remember that blacks consist of a tiny six percent of California's total population. So this means that far, far more millions of non-black people voted YES to ban same-sex marriage than black folks. So why all the rage against black people?? Why not rage instead against the Castro district or the Bay Area that did NOT vote at all!
2. Why in Los Angeles were there seemingly six radio advertisements an hour to vote 'No on Prop 8' during the morning run on the Latino 96 FM station but absolutely none on the black 102.3 FM KJLH station or the black and notoriously homophobic, 106 FM radio?
Where were the funds for the media outreach there? Again, not fully funded or fully staffed by the LGBT powers-that be.
3. Why was there only [one] town hall that I know of that was held targeting African Americans in Los Angeles? And why was there less than five black people across the entire state of California trying to coordinate a 'No on 8' campaign targeted towards the black community?
Again black and people of color community outreach has been historically and consistently under-funded and understaffed by the LGBT establishment.
By the way the town hall conducted in Los Angeles was held just two weeks before the election at the mostly white and wealthy campus of USC in the middle of rush hour at 6:30 p.m. and required $8 to park then walk to the building where it was being held.
So why not hold it at a community center in Compton with free parking at 7:30pm maybe six weeks before election with follow up town halls in Lemiert Park , West Adams, Watts, Gardena , and in other areas South Los Angeles? I guess that was too much work to do for the LGBT community to earn the black vote on such an important measure.
4. And where was the door-to-door neighborhood canvassing and phone banking directly targeting black communities?
I know of only one organization in the entire state of California that initiated a phone banking activity a few days before the election directly targeted towards Black communities. I am not aware of any door-to-door canvassing specifically targeting black neighborhoods for 'No on 8.'
Again, under-funded and understaffed, but still the LGBT community expected the black vote on Nov. 4. A bit naive don't you think?
5. Also where was the outreach to black affirming clergy to assist with black churches in California ?
Yes I am fully aware that there was some work done in this area just two weeks before the election, but again it was not fully funded or fully staffed enough to make a significant impact.
6. And why on earth did the LGBT community expect to run a few advertisements in historically black newspapers in California just two months before election to sway voters? Think about it.
After all these years in existence then suddenly the LGBT community places public educational advertisements hoping black folks would help and support on Nov. 4. I don’t think so. It takes much more of an effort than that to earn the black vote.
7. And finally, where was the all important “ask” and with it the justifications of “why?” Again there is this blanket assumption that all black folks will do black flips onto the civil rights bus for gays and lesbians. Think again.
To reach black and people of color communities it will take a well thought out and fully FUNDED and fully STAFFED strategic plan, time, and patience.
Remember blacks went from slavery to 'separate but equal' to desegregation to tolerance to gain. Blacks for instance still lag behind in many areas of social justice although we have all of our rights.
From under-employment, under-education, income inequities to literally driving-while-black, African-Americans still face steep odds despite a black man heading to the White House.
So if the LGBT community would like to continue to compare itself to the Black civil rights struggle, it may want to readjust its timeline a bit. It has taken several hundred years for Blacks in this country to go from slavery to President.
Could it be that the LGBT community may have to just wait its time as well? Maybe not hundreds of years but perhaps a whole lot longer than previously expected?
These are just a few things for all of us to think about going forward as we have marriage pending in New Jersey, New York, Iowa, and possibly D.C. and of course California.
Herndon Davis is media consultant, author, TV/Radio Host. He can be reached directly at www.herndondavis.com and www.diversityTV.tv.
Friday, November 7, 2008
What a week it has been!
The image of Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and their daughters on stage at Grant Park in Chicago on Tuesday night is one that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I, like undoubtedly millions upon millions of people in this country and around the world, simply stood with tears in our eyes to watch the new president-elect. Times Square took on a carnival-like atmosphere with thousands of people celebrating Obama's election. Hope had once again returned to a country whose people had arguably languished through one of the most inept and incompetent administrations the United States has ever seen. Those gathered in Times Square were waving American flags, singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs. Hope had once again returned to a largely cynical and weary people.
It must be noted, however, millions of Americans actually lost rights on election night with the passage of Proposition 8 in California, Amendment 2 in Florida and others in Arizona and Arkansas that banned marriage for same-sex couples and un-married couples from adopting children. Prop 8's passage was a particularly bitter defeat for the movement for LGBT rights. Activists will arguably have to do some soul-searching in the coming weeks in their post-election analysis. A handful of the questions those within the movement and the broader LGBT community will arguably ask themselves include whether Prop 8 opponents implemented an effective campaign, whether they did enough to engage people of color and other key constituencies and even whether the overall strategy around marriage for same-sex couples remains viable.
The passage of these amendments on Tuesday is an extremely unfortunate blemish on what was otherwise a historic day for this country. Obama's election brings hope and promise to millions upon millions of people who had previously felt shut out of the arguable ideals upon which this country was built. And let's hope this promise and hope will include all Americans in the coming administration.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
It's nearly 5:20 a.m. and I just filed my election story for EDGE about local reaction to Barack Obama's historic election as the country's next president. It frankly all seems so surreal. I spent the night at the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village, Room Service in Gramercy and finally in Times Square with thousands of eccstatic New Yorkers and others from around the world.
Fellow reporter Michael Luongo and I knew the cheers and honking horns we began to hear as we walked up Sixth Avenue in Chelsea meant Obama had secured enough electoral votes to win the White House--and my friend Paul in Boston confirmed it with a phone call a couple of minutes later. Reporters are trained in journalism school to remain objective in their coverage and to provide fair and balanced coverage of all sides of a story. Tonight was different.
I became emotional as I watched Obama make his speech in Chicago. I joined others inside Room Service who began to clap for a man who is now the first man of color elected to the White House. And at one point all I could do was put my arm around my Fire Island News columnist Bruce-Michael Gelbert and soak in the moment with tears in my eyes.
The election not only represents an arguable bold exclamation point to end Bush Republicanism, but it amounts to what many hope is a monumental change in American politics and the United States. Those changes will make themselves known in the coming weeks, months and years, but the majority of Americans will arguably wake-up proud of the monumental step forward their fellow citizens took by electing Obama as their next president.
Tisha Riley of Crown Heights, right, watches the results trickle in at the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village with friend Mo George
New York Times captures the mood of many in Times Square
Boy in Bushwick captures scene in Times Square around 1 a.m. today
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
With my sausage McMuffin and coffee in hand, I made my early morning trudge to the my local polling place and cast my final vote in the longest and arguably most important presidential election in which I have participated. It is an unseasonably mild early November morning here in New York, but the thing that stands out is the unprecedented turnout.
WNYC reported long lines at polling places in the East Village, Inwood and other neighborhoods across the five boroughs before I left my apartment around 7:30. The British Broadcasting Corporation just reported an estimated 135 million people will vote today and I read an e-mail from someone on a list serve of which I am a member that he expected to wait more than two hours to vote in Alexandria, Virginia. I didn't expect a long line in Bushwick, but a bustling but largely efficient scene greeted me at my polling place. I waited a couple of minutes before I entered the booth to vote. I finished and nearly a dozen people (mostly white 20-somethings who had probably just moved to Bushwick) were waiting on line. This queue is the first I have seen in my neighborhood. It moved rather quickly, but this scene is almost certainly indicative of a myriad of others across the country.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Perhaps it was only a matter of time, but I was curiously stunned at the sight of a sign outside the former Scatturo supermarket on Knickerbocker Avenue yesterday that announced new condominiums and retail space would open on the once violence and drug-riddled street by March 2010. Gentrification has arguably arrived in full force within my immediate 10-block radius. The steady influx of former Williamsburg hipsters on 10-speeds, musicians trudging from the Jefferson Street L train stop with their instruments on their backs and even a handful of Vespas on my block were the early signs of this trend that continues to transform once undesirable parts of Brooklyn and large swaths of the five boroughs. But I guess this new project in the heart of what was once known as "the Well" because of the seemingly endless supply of drugs makes it all the more official...
On a more partisan note, voters will officially end the longest presidential campaign in American history tomorrow. The long and arduous election cycle has been for us journalists, bloggers and partisan junkies (Isn't sarcasm great?!?!?). The broader public, however, will arguably breathe a much awaited sigh of relief. Things will return to some resemblance of normalcy in a country frightened by the economic crisis. And Americans will arguably look forward to Thanksgiving, the holidays and other non-partisan endeavours.
Finally, those of you who may want to reach out to me can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
With only five days until voters go to the polls to elect the country's next president, it is an arguable safe bet to assume the vast majority of people in this country are more than ready for the longest presidential campaign in American history to come to an end. The idea that Joe the Plumber may have a record deal signed before Nov. 4 is entertaining indeed, but the latest polls indicate John McCain has potentially gained some ground on Barack Obama in contested battleground states.
Quinnipiac University shows 47 percent of Florida voters back Obama in comparison to 45 percent of those who said they back McCain. This statistic compares to the 49 to 44 percent margin on Oct. 23. The same poll shows 51 percent of Ohio voters back Obama over 42 percent who indicate they support McCain. This margin is less than the 13 point spread found on Oct. 23. Obama maintains a 12 point lead in Pennsylvania.
Momentum remains largely at Obama's back with less than a week to go until voters head to the polls. The steady stream of election night parties for which I have received invitations are the latest in a steady stream of obvious reminders this vote is arguably the most anticipated in a generation (or more.) The fact remains, however, more than a few people will rejoice on Nov. 5 at the conclusion of the longest campaign in American history... and only then does the real work truly begin!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
New York remains, above almost all else, an exercise in how the little things can arguably go unnoticed--the corner barber shop in Bushwick, a sidewalk kabob stand or the palm trees in the middle of Times Square in the summer. Add to this mix ads from both the Ali Forney Center and Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Seniors (SAGE) on the E train.
I spotted these ads on an uptown E train last night from West 4th Street to 14th Street. It was a cool and rainy evening, but seeing these ads from two organizations that continue to do extremely important work allowed me to forget for at least a moment the cold downpour that chilled me to the bone. It was yet another one of those New York moments that makes me feel as though I continue to belong here.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Nearly a week in a sub-tropical paradise at the literal end of the road can often make a person forget about the outside world. And Key West certainly provided a temporary relief from the continued economic turmoil, the last vestages of the longest presidential campaign in American history and the political debate surrounding the extension of term limits in New York.
The 42 degree weather that awaited me in the city yesterday morning was arguably exactly what I needed to remind me I had returned to the reality that remains my life in New York. I am much more bronzed, perhaps a couple of pounds lighter from snorkeling, riding my bike around the island for nearly a week and engaging in other social activities for which Key West is famous. Karma provided the last laugh at the expense of one reporter on our trip as he departed for the airport on Wednesday morning, but my mind yearns to return to Key West once again so I can bike around the island with "La isla bonita" in my iPOD, enjoy a Cuba libre by the pool or stand on the bow of a catamaran plying the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Enough of my own self-serving reminescences, but attached is a picture from a store along Duval Street that provides an arguably convincing categorization of the next 11days.
P.S. For those of you who would like to contact me directly, please e-mail email@example.com.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The seven inches of rain that inundated Key West this morning and a few hours ago delayed my flight out of Key West tonight, and as a result I missed my connecting flight to Miami. I will return to New York tomorrow morning, but for tonight I am in Miami.
Key West remains one of my favorite places in the world, and the vast majority of this trip simply enhanced my own self-serving bias. I spent a couple of dry hours earlier this afternoon wandering through Old Town before heading to the airport. And yesterday I spent nearly five hours out on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas. Fort Jefferson, a massive structure built to protect the Florida Keys during the civil war, occupies more than 75 percent of the windswept island. It lays 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. And it is certainly the most isolated place I have visited--and a blissful world away from New York's hustle and bustle.
I return to Brooklyn tomorrow, but attached are some pictures from the trip.
Key West Lighthouse
Approaching Fort Jefferson on Garden Key
Fort Jefferson and it's moat
Inside the fort
Looking out to sea from inside the fort
Inside the fort
My Fantasy Fest mask from Walgreen's
Headdress Ball second runner-up
Key West bipartisanship
White Street in front of the Island House after four inches of rain fell in less than three hours. (My apartment is on the first floor of the building in the foreground)
A flood casualty
Donkey Milk Lane in Old Town
A rooster hanging out near Duval Street
Monday, October 20, 2008
My recent trip to the laundry to clean my jacket and sweaters was the stark annual omen that winter is fast approaching in New York, but the balmy 85 degree temperature that greeted me at Key West International Airport on Friday afternoon invigorated me in much the same way the steady stream of Cuba libres has done since landing on the island.
I am on Key West until Wednesday as part of a media trip with six other LGBT journalists. I have been to the island twice before, and each time I have had an amazing time with copious amounts of sun, sand, alcohol and other activities in which one partakes in a sub-tropical paradise at the southern tip of Florida. That said, pictures will be forth coming.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
With less than three weeks until American voters head to the polls, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama squared off at Hofstra University on Long Island last night for the last of three presidential debates. McCain immediately came out swinging, but he arguably did not do himself any favors.
His body language, apparent anger and even audible sighs during the 90 minute debate did not serve him well. It also became apparent McCain wanted to use Obama's alleged connection to so-called domestic terrorist Bill Ayers and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) to deflect attention away from his own potential short-comings on the economic crisis. Obama, who remained cool and collected throughout the exchange, was right to bring attention back to the economy, health care and other "core issues."
McCain's direct assertion he is not President Bush helped his own cause, but his reference to Georgia Congressman John Lewis' controversial comments about his ticket--and his claim Obama refused to repudiate him--came across as little more than partisan whining from a candidate who arguably fails to accept responsibility for his own struggling campaign. It was yet another distraction from the core issues about which my mother who recently lost her job and millions of other Americans care. McCain may have scored points with his Republican base, but he once again failed to score that all important knock-out punch or game changer he desperately needs. And as a result, the election remains Obama's to win.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Say it ain't so! Those persistent rumors signaling the end of Madonna's marriage to British director Guy Ritchie came to roost today with an announcement the A-list couple will divorce. Gasp!
The couple married in Scotland in 2000 after meeting at a dinner party hosted by Sting and his wife. Madonna and Richie have an eight-year-old son Rocco and a three-year-old son they adopted in Malawi. Madonna also has a 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes, with her personal trainer Carlos Leon.
Something has apparently not been right in the house of Madge if the tabloids are to be believed. The Material Girl-turned Esther was quick to deny reports she had an affair with New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez after his soon-to-be-ex-wife Cynthia implicated Madge as the catalyst behind the break-up. How sticky and sweet!
Gaydom will obviously continue to follow the travails of one of its favorite daughters closely. I, for one, will repeatedly shuffle "Like a Prayer" and "Like a Virgin" in my iPod in anticipation of the next revelation from the Material Girl with whom I share a birthday. You go Esther!
Monday, October 13, 2008
With 22 days until the election, both John McCain and Barack Obama continue to court potential undecided voters in those all too important battleground states. And New Hampshire is no exception.
I spent the weekend in Manchester, my hometown, and on the Seacoast in Durham and Portsmouth. Politics is definitely in the air. A slew of negative McCain ads greated television viewers across the state. A steady stream of Obama ads countered the Republican rhetoric while a series of back and forth attacks between former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and incumbent U.S. Sen. John Sununu were an addition to this already partisan mix. Freshman Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter squared off against former Congressman Jeb Bradley and Congressman Paul Hodes defended his record against attacks from Jennifer Horn. Just another weekend in the battleground state New Hampshire has become!
The one thing that remains arguably clear is Granite Staters echo their fellow Americans in their call for change. And this caricature featuring President Bush outside a Portsmouth gift shop on Friday afternoon perhaps sums up voters feelings as the campaign enters its final weeks.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
With the ongoing economic crisis as a looming backdrop, John McCain and Barack Obama squared off at Belmont University in Nashville for the second of three presidential debates.
The town hall format arguably reaffirmed differences each candidate has a on a variety of domestic and international policy issues--most notably the economy. But style is so often the unfortunate barometer upon which American voters base their decisions, and one can easily conclude Obama came out on top on that aspect alone.
McCain's slipping poll numbers are a clear indication he needed to change the game last night. He stuck to the standard GOP talking points in much the same way Sarah Palin did last week in St. Louis. He even cited Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan as his heroes. McCain's reference to Obama as "that one" in response to an energy policy question and other charges he made during the debate, however, reaffirmed the idea he is condescending--or worse.
McCain failed to garner the game changer he obviously needed last night. My always faithful mother in New Hampshire summed up the debate this way: "[He] didn't do himself any favors." Is the writing on the wall with less than a month before Nov. 4? You be the judge!
Monday, October 6, 2008
With the ongoing economic crisis showing no signs of easing anytime soon, one former Wall Street analyst with $28,000 in credit card debt apparently found a unique way to fund his own version of an economic stimulus plan.
The self-confessed "27-year-old straight white male living in New York City" confessed to never having kissed another man or even touched someone's penis as he reaffirmed his heterosexual credentials. He offered to wear the same suit he wore to his job interview at his former firm. The man further expressed a desire to spend "some time having a drink with" a potential suitor in order to break the ice. He further offered to give the "ideal blow job/hand job combination" until the recipient has an orgasm or 30 minutes has passed. The man ruled out anal sex.
Someone who read the posting apparently offered the hetero with financially-induced gay tendencies a job, so his search to pop his cherry did not come to pass. A potentially important lesson to keep in mind during these tough economic times.
Friday, October 3, 2008
In what was arguably one of the most anticipated vice presidential debates in history, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin exceeded admittedly very low expectations in her showdown against Senator Joseph Biden last night at Washington University in St. Louis.
Palin clearly came out swinging. She clearly had a lot to prove after a less than flattering series of interviews with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson caused many observers and even some prominent socially conservative commentators to question her qualifications. Palin's broad GOP talking points, strategic sound bites and folksy presentation were clearly designed to resonate with Joe Six Pack and hockey and soccer moms across the country who admittedly fail to understand the day-to-day wheeling and dealings inside the Beltway. And her direct challenge to the way she feels the mainstream media has prevented her from speaking to the American people was a page directly from the Republican playbook.
The question remains, however, whether Palin actually provided any specifics. She did come out against marriage for same-sex couples. Palin also appeared to implicitly support a more powerful role for the vice president in response to what her role would be if voters elected the GOP ticket this November. Biden rather correctly implicated Dick Cheney in his response.
"[He] has been the most dangerous vice president we've had in American history," he said.
All in all, Palin easily exceeded the excessively low bar set for her. It remains to be seen, however, whether voters will respond to her performance. But to quote my mother in New Hampshire, Palin did not say much of anything.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
A week after a source contacted Boy in Bushwick with reports suggesting the possible imminent demise of the New England Blade, the troubled Boston-based newspaper announced on its Web site its print edition has gone on hiatus until further notice. The brief statement concludes with an ominous harbinger of what many local observers have concluded will come.
"Thank you for allowing us to be your premier source of GLBT news and entertainment for the past 17 years," it read.
This announcement comes on the heels of a string of resignations, embarrassing revelations, controversies and speculation that has left the once respected weekly reeling since HX Media purchased it in late 2006. The question remains as to whether this announcement marks the beginning of the end of a publication about whose future many in Boston and LGBT media circles have long speculated. Perhaps? This ominous news clearly indicates the New England Blade continues to fight for its very survival.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
As the U.S. Senate continues debates the economic bailout bill on Capitol Hill, a new poll conducted by CBS News and the New York Times indicates Sen. Barack Obama has a nine point advantage over his Republican rival.
The poll of 1,257 adults conducted Sunday through Tuesday found 49 percent of those surveyed back Obama compared to 40 percent who endorsed Sen. John McCain. 54 percent of respondents said they feel Obama has a plan to address the economic crisis, while 47 percent disapproved of how they feel McCain has dealt with the current turmoil.
The survey further indicated President George W. Bush's approval rating has dropped to a historically low 22 percent. And Congressional support is an abysmal 15 percent.
A surprise? Arguably not since Democrats tend to fair better in the polls during times of economic certainty, but these numbers further confirm the Bush administration's credibility remains largely gone as it enters its twilight. Both candidates continue to point to the change they contend Washington needs. And most Americans appear ready to make it happen on Nov. 4.
Monday, September 29, 2008
With today's developments on Capitol Hill and on Wall Street, it appears crystal clear the economy will dominate the remainder of the presidential campaign. This reality became evident at the first of three presidential debates held at the University of Mississippi on Friday.
New Yorkers immediately weighed in on which candidate they felt addressed the crisis and handled themselves better in the debate. It appears as though most observers quickly concluded Obama fared better than McCain, but Republicans, including the one interviewed for the below article I just posted to EDGE, indicate the former prisoner-of-war came out on top. The partisanship will only increase over the coming weeks. And it will generate even more headlines.
With the ongoing economic crisis showing no signs of easing, New Yorkers gathered in bars, social clubs and apartments on Friday night to see if either Sens. John McCain or Barack Obama would offer specific solutions during the first of three presidential debates at the University of Mississippi. Neither candidate elaborated their positions beyond their campaign trail talking points, but local LGBT partisans were quick to put their own spin on how their respective White House hopeful performed.
The Democratic presidential contender was the obvious favorite among the hundreds of people who packed the LGBT for Obama debate party at Room Service in Gramercy. McCain received a steady stream of boos, hisses, obscene gestures and proclamations. And a number of attendees even threw crumpled pieces of paper at a large big screen television as he answered moderator Jim Lehrer’s questions and responded to Obama.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn offered a pep talk of sorts before the debate.
"It’s important that all of us are in this room tonight," she said. "There is just too much at stake."
Jess Braverman, 25, of Prospect Heights, expressed shock over McCain’s continued support of private health care. She was equally critical of his economic stance.
"It was interesting John McCain’s only [instinct] was having oversight," Braverman said. "It was obviously something he said to get a reaction. He didn’t have anything solid."
She further noted health care, the economy and Iraq remain the three issues on which she will continue to focus. City Council candidate Yetta Kurland added she felt Obama adequately addressed the ongoing Wall Street turmoil.
"He has been very clear and very concise," she said.
On the other side of the aisle, a number of gay Republicans attended a New York Young Republicans-sponsored debate party at the Metropolitan Republican Club on the Upper East Side. Gregory Angelo, a spokesperson for Log Cabin Republicans of New York, was quick to applaud McCain’s performance.
"John McCain clearly showed he was the better, more decisive candidate in terms of his ability to protect the American economy and our interests throughout the world," he said.
A snap poll conducted by Politico.com found 73 percent of respondents thought Obama performed better than McCain in the debate. Fox News reported 54 percent of those surveyed after the debate said Obama won.
McCain and Obama are scheduled to debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Oct. 7 and at Hofstra University on Long Island on Oct. 15. Vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin will square off at Washington University in St. Louis on Thursday.
Manhattan resident Bryan Kutner, 34, expressed concern Obama’s oratory style fails to resonate well with independent voters. He remains optimistic, however, Democrats will win the White House this November.
"Obama hasn’t made any serious gaffes," Kutner said. "McCain has made gaffe after gaffe."
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Does the ongoing saga that is the New England Blade finally have an end?
A source who contacted Boy at Bushwick yesterday afternoon pointed to a virtual laundry list of items that suggest a possibly eminent end for the troubled Boston-based LGBT weekly. He said the New England Blade's landlord served the newspaper an eviction notice to vacate its South End offices because of failure to pay rent, and HX CEO Matthew Bank rushed to the Hub to give staff what he described as a "pep talk." The source further indicated the company asked staff to wait to cash their paychecks because HX is trying to secure 11th hour capital to keep the operation going. He also said the New England Blade is two months behind in payments to its distributor.
Our friends over at Loaded Gun have also posted on these potentially terminal developments, but these reports are the latest in a series of controversies and all around bad news that have rocked the once venerable publication. These include former editor-in-large Fred Kuhr's resignation last December, continued failure to pay freelancers and other contributors as this blog has previously documented and the brouhaha over the New England Blade's publication of its "official event guide for Boston Pride" in June over strong objections from the festival organizers.
I'm not one to immediately jump to conclusions, but the controversies and all around drama that have repeatedly dogged the New England Blade since HX bought the former InNewsweekly nearly two years ago clearly indicate something is not kosher. Is it time to grab our fiddles and watch Rome burn? Perhaps we will know sooner rather than later.
Update [Sept. 25, 2008; 4:37 p.m.]: New England Blade publisher James Patterson told Bay Windows his publication is not facing eminent demise. He dismissed claims the newspaper faced eviction, but refused to comment on allegations HX Media asked employees not to cash their paychecks until sufficient capital could be located. Patterson conceded, however, the ongoing ecomonic crisis has impacted the New England Blade.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The news of the ongoing economic crisis, the return of Hurricane Ike evacuees to Galveston and even Clay Aiken's decision to come out of the closet continue to garner today's headlines, but Sarah Palin's decision to severely curtail media access to her meetings at the United Nations in New York yesterday certainly garnered this writer's attention.
The Associated Press and CNN were among the outlets that strongly objected to the campaign's decision to prohibit reporters from observing meetings between the Alaska governor and Afghan President Harmad Karzai and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Campaign officials reportedly told the news organizations their exclusion was "not subject to discussion." They finally relented after CNN pulled its crew from Palin's first meeting.
Politicians routinely seek strategic photo opportunities to shore up their credentials on a particular issue and to frankly score some PR points with a strategically identified constituency. The campaign's actions, which arguably amount to censorship, only fuel questions about Palin's qualifications as vice president. They only provide journalists, pundits and political observers with even more questions about this Republican wunderkind du jour to her arguable detriment.