Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year in New York. And below is a list of some of the characters I saw on the subway from Jefferson Street here in Bushwick to Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens, and at Studio Squared last night.

- A slutty ballerina covered in blood
- Fred Flintstone
- Death
- Miss Geisha Sashimi
- Wolverine and Storm from X-Men
- A dirty grandmother
- Bob Marley
- A football player with an actual jock strap
- Wonder Woman
- Divine
- Jackie O
- King Tut and Nefertiti
- A Chiquita banana
- Snooki and Pauly D from "Jersey Shore"
- A stoned astronaut (a true space cadet)
- So-called Revenge of the Nerds

Chilean miners were not among those into whom I ran last night, but the hundreds of children who trick-or-treated on Knickerbocker Avenue earlier this afternoon certainly learned Halloween can prove quite lucrative in the candy department. Here are a couple of pictures from Circo's at the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Hart Street around 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ex-madam Kristin Davis courts Bushwick voters

New York State gubernatorial candidate Kristin Davis apparently finds it necessary to stump for votes in Bushwick!

I would have preferred to receive information about the Rent Is Too Damn High Party in the mail this afternoon, but the ex-madam certainly knows a thing or two about hustling for votes (and chutzpah!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Union Leader declines to publish gay couple’s wedding announcement

This native Granite Stater finds the growing outrage over the Union Leader’s decision not to publish a gay couple's wedding announcement rather curious.

Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, correctly pointed out in a statement the newspaper’s “opposition to gays and lesbians being treated equally under the law is no secret to those of us that live in New Hampshire.” The Union Leader consistently opined against the state’s marriage equality law that took effect in January. And the newspaper once again highlighted this editorial position in defense of its decision not to publish Greg Gould and Aurelio Tine's wedding announcement.

“This newspaper has never published wedding or engagement announcements from homosexual couples," wrote the Union Leader in a statement. "It would be hypocritical of us to do so, given our belief that marriage is and needs to remain a social and civil structure between men and women."

While unfortunate, the newspaper has the right to publish (or in this case not publish) what it chooses. And while the outrage over the Union Leader’s decision not to publish Gould and Tine’s wedding announcement is certainly justified, anyone who thinks this rag will suddenly embrace LGBT people and their families is woefully naïve.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Obama: It gets better

President Obama is the latest high profile figure to speak out against anti-LGBT bullying.

In a video the White House posted to its YouTube channel late on Thursday, Oct. 21, the president sought to dispel “the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage—that it’s some inevitable part of growing up.”

“You are not alone,” he said, speaking directly to victims of anti-LGBT bullying. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are. And so, if you ever feel like because of bullying, because of what people are saying, that you’re getting down on yourself, you’ve got to make sure to reach out to people you trust. Whether it’s your parents, teachers, folks that you know care about you just the way you are. You’ve got to reach out to them, don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself.”

The timeline under which the administration released the video is certainly interesting. The Department of Justice continues to challenge U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillip’s ruling on the constitutionality of the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers. And skeptics maintain the president’s video is a cynical attempt to deflect attention away from a growing public relations disaster over the issue.

Others can opine about whether the administration has or has not done enough to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But the fact the president spoke out against anti-LGBT bullying sends a powerful message that resonates far beyond the LGBT activist fishbowl.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Does Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller believe in a free press?

The Associated Press reported earlier today the security guard who handcuffed Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger at an event for U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller could face assault charges.

The incident took place inside an Anchorage school on Sunday, Oct. 17, but this incident raises some very serious questions that go far beyond a candidate’s desire to control his message on the campaign trail. One of the United States' founding principles is a free press, but it appears Miller and his operatives disregarded this basic American ideal in Anchorage over the past weekend.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Leaf peeping and mid-term election politics

Politics were definitely in the crisp fall air in New Hampshire this past weekend (in case anyone needs a Brooklyn-based writer to remind them the mid-term elections are only 15 days away.) “Fire Pelosi” bumper stickers, signs touting former Manchester mayor and congressional candidate Frank Giunta as a “real conservative” and a barrage of negative campaign ads—a National Rifle Association-funded spot I heard on the radio while driving through Concord on Interstate 93 strongly suggested incumbent Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter would strip Americans of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to bear arms—were as common as the mums, pumpkins and corn stalks that adorned homes in suburban southern New Hampshire’s sub-divisions.

The Citizens United case is the obvious impetus behind this orgy of advertising, but the stunning foliage for which New Hampshire is world famous provided a very welcome respite from the partisan noise in this battleground state.

Maple tree in front of my parents' house in Manchester, N.H.

Pumpkins for sale at Mack's Apples in Londonderry, N.H.

Along Peaked Hill Road in Bristol, N.H.

Along Newfound Lake in Alexandria, N.H.

A passing shower produced this rainbow over Newfound Lake.

Newfound Lake from Wellington State Park in Alexandria, N.H.

Along Commerce Street in Hill, N.H.

U.S. Senate politics play themselves out in Hill, N.H.

A slice of the American electorate parked outside the Hill Village Store in Hill, N.H.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Paladino blasted at Pride Agenda's fall dinner

It should come as little surprise those who spoke at the Empire State Pride Agenda's annual fall dinner last night blasted Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. The Buffalo millionaire's own words remain his worst enemy, but Gov. David Paterson, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Pride Agenda executive director Ross Levi were among those who took the firebrand to task.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

¡Vivan los mineros chilenos!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paladino goes there with the gays

It was only a matter of time before Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino went there with the gays.

The controversy over comments he made to a group of Hasidic rabbis in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday, Oct. 10, continues to rage—everyone from New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to GOProud co-founder Chris Barron have soundly condemned them. The Tea Party-backed provocateur obviously seeks out any opportunity to drop verbal bombshells to further the ridiculous spectacle his campaign has become. It is important, however, to provide some context to this truly unfortunate story.

Andrés and I were among those fortunate enough to attend Andrew Hertzberg and Andy Rollman’s wedding in the lobby of the old Hecht’s Department Store in downtown Washington, D.C., on Sunday. Andrew’s 89-year-old father proudly gave his son away to his husband inside the former Hecht’s Department Store. And this simple act of love, which ironically took place hours before Paladino spoke to the Williamsburg rabbis, brought nearly everyone to tears.

Andrew’s father could obviously teach Paladino a thing or two.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

LGBT Americans need more than a BFF

The Human Rights Campaign certainly knows how to throw an extravagant party for itself every October in Washington, D.C., but does this carefully choreographed gala actually accomplish anything?

Andres and I were genuinely thrilled to see Ricky Martin take the stage at the start of the nearly four-hour affair. He told those inside the Washington Convention Center he wants “to add my voice to yours” and he is “so happy to be part of this community.” The predictable flurry of text messages and tweets to my editor, colleagues and friends in New York City followed, but the emotional testimony the gay Puerto Rican heart throb provided truly proved far more powerful than simple words can describe.

Mo’Nique’s equally heart-felt and equally compelling speech as she introduced director Lee Daniels and Pink’s challenge to bullies to come find her if they “want to take their anger out on someone” provided additional highlights as the evening dragged on. Senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett’s comments on the rash of recent LGBT teenager suicides and the administration’s commitment to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers were certainly nice gestures. Once again, however, did they actually accomplish anything?

The last few weeks have certainly brought sadness, anger and outrage to those within the movement for LGBT rights and their many supporters. The seemingly endless headlines about teenagers taking their own lives because they faced endless torment over their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression; yet more reported hate crimes in New York City; and partisan politics that derailed debate on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, among other things, have certainly taken their toll. And while it is entirely appropriate for people to enjoy themselves at an HRC dinner, it takes far more than endless backslapping, choreographed moments designed to put someone’s idea of the community’s best face forward and a California teenager’s “Joe (Solmonese) is possibly even a BFF” proclamation to show the country LGBT Americans deserve more than a simple seat at the table.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The freak show goes to the U.S. Supreme Court

The visual of members of the Westboro Baptist Church spewing anti-gay rhetoric outside the U.S. Supreme Court earlier today was almost certainly bizarre for anyone who witnessed it, but the case for which the justices heard oral arguments raises some fundamental questions.

“I think the church of the Lord Jesus Christ got to stand in the highest court of the world and say that soldiers are dying for your sins and we’re committed to the proposition that Americans can say that and not be penalized,” said Margie Phelps, as Kerry Eleveld of The Advocate reported.

The facts in Snyder v. Phelps stand for themselves—Fred Phelps and a handful of other WBC members held anti-gay signs as they protested outside 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral in Westminster, Md., in March 2006. Albert Snyder, Matthew’s father, sued the Topeka, Kan.,-based church for emotional damages. A lower court awarded Albert Snyder $5 million, but a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., overturned the decision.

(The story is the top story on WJLA’s 6 p.m. newscast here in Washington, D.C., as I write this blog.) It goes without saying the Snyder family has suffered unimaginable heartbreak over their son’s death, and the WBC’s antics have only exacerbated this anguish. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler described Snyder v. Phelps as “fundamentally about wrongs and the law’s imperfect ability to redress them” in an op-ed published in today’s Washington Post. The newspaper, however, editorialized differently.

“If Westboro’s vitriol is deemed unworthy of First Amendment protection and a private citizen can sue to silence the church—or shut it down—then everyone’s rights will be eroded and made dependent on the sensibilities of others,” the Post wrote.

The First Amendment guarantees all Americans—including Westboro members who choose to spew their odious vitriol—are entitled to freedom of speech. The primary takeaway from Snyder v. Phelps, however, should remain anyone who opposes the church can exercise their constitutional right to counter their odious messages with those of love and acceptance.

The media scrum outside the U.S. Supreme Court earlier today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"One Nation" march draws progressives to Washington

Andres and I were among the tens of thousands of people who attended the “One Nation” rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Oct. 2.

I was there to take pictures of LGBT participants—Lt. Dan Choi; Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Rights; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Whole and Department Store Union; New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Jeff Campagna and Jeff Hall of The Power were among those who took part in the rally. And while the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force appeared to have a visible presence at the rally, labor activists and union members constituted the bulk of those who turned out.

The Washington Post stressed “One Nation” organizers sought to allow everyone to have their say, but I will allow others to opine whether the march was anything more than a progressive pep-talk of sorts ahead of the crucial mid-term elections.