Thursday, January 26, 2012
Photo by Michael K. Lavers
Hundreds of activists and their allies descended upon Capitol Hill on Thursday to lobby members of Congress to pass several LGBT-specific pieces of legislation.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was among those who took part in the lobby day that coincided with the Task Force's annual Creating Change conference that will take place in Baltimore through Sunday. The activists specifically pushed for passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. They also sought the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño indicated to reporters on Friday, Dec. 9, that he supports the island’s current hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The governor answered questions about the proposed changes to Puerto Rico’s penal code during a press conference at the Executive Mansion in San Juan.
“We hope he sticks to his word and uses his leadership to ensure those provisions remain in the penal code—and not only maintains those provisions, but orders his administration to enforce them,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Singer Ricky Martin, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez are among those who have publicly spoken out against a proposed provision that the Puerto Rico Senate approved last month that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion and ethnicity from the island’s hate crimes law. More than 14,000 people have signed a petition that Jorge Sepulveda posted to Change.org earlier this week that urges Puerto Rican lawmakers to reject the measure.
The Puerto Rico House of Representatives is not expected to vote on the revised penal code during the special legislative session, but Fortuño said he hopes lawmakers will approve it sometime in early January.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The country's largest LGBT rights organization has once again blasted a proposed provision of Puerto Rico's new penal code that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and other categories from the island's hate crimes law.
“It would be unconscionable for Puerto Rico’s leaders to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from existing hate crime protections,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “This sends the dangerous message that it is acceptable to harass or harm LGBT people and would leave victims of hate crimes with no legal recourse. I urge Puerto Rico’s lawmakers not only to reject this homophobic legislation, but to push more aggressively to protect the well-being of LGBT Puerto Ricans.”
Singer Ricky Martin, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez are among those who have publicly spoken out against the proposed provision. Jorge Sepulveda posted a petition to Change.org late on Wednesday, Dec. 7, that urges Puerto Rican lawmakers to reject the measure.
"It is ironic that in the same week, we see President Obama and Hillary Clinton going to international groups and telling them to pass more laws to protect minorities, then in Puerto Rico you see the government doing the exact opposite," he told Boy in Bushwick earlier on Thursday, Dec. 8. "It’s shameful to see that."
Puerto Rico lawmakers are poised to debate the proposed provision when they consider the revised penal code during a special legislative session this week. Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz criticized House Judiciary Committee President Liza Fernández’s criticism of the proposed amended hate crimes law in an interview with Vocero on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Gutierrez urged Attorney General Eric Holder earlier on Thursday that he create a federal task force to investigate and prosecute hate crimes on the island. The U.S. Department of Justice cited the Puerto Rico Police Department's inadequate response to hate crimes as one of the PRPD's endemic deficiencies in a scathing report it issued in September. The Puerto Rico Department of Justice's own statistics indicate that prosecutors have not convicted anyone under the island's hate crimes law.
"If Puerto Rico doesn't want to protect its residents from attacks, violence and murder, then the federal authorities need to step in and ensure the most basic rights of life and liberty are protected," wrote Gutierrez.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Speaking in Geneva on Tuesday, Dec. 6, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon countries to end human rights abuses against their LGBT citizens.
"Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," she said.
Clinton's landmark speech coincided with the release of a presidential memo that directed government agencies that carry out American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad. Clinton also briefly met with LGBT activists before she delivered her remarks in the Palais des Nations.
Puerto Rico House of Representatives President Jenniffer González announced on Monday, Dec. 5, that she would review a proposed provision to the penal code that would remove sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and ethnic ethnicity from the island’s hate crimes law.
“I have been very consistent about hate crimes,” she said, according to Primera Hora. “I have presented special laws against hate crimes that are there, so I am on the record about this topic.”
González’s announcement coincided with House Judiciary Committee President Liza Fernández’s criticism of the proposed amendment that the Puerto Rico Senate approved late last month.
“For me, it was an error to eliminate these factors from the code,” she said, as el Nuevo Día reported on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other activists and elected officials blasted the proposed provision. New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez, Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer urged lawmakers to reject the measure in a joint statement they issued late on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
“When we take into account the horrific hate crimes that have occurred in recent years, this decision is even more egregious and nonsensical," said Mark-Viverito, who was born in San Juan. "The Puerto Rican government is creating a dangerous environment for those who have been and potentially could be attacked or even killed solely on the basis of their identity without any additional penalties for the perpetrators. This strategy to de-classify hate violence directed against LGBT Puerto Ricans and ethnic groups as a separate crime cannot stand."
Nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered on the island since gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found along a remote roadside near Cayey in 2009. With more than 1,000 reported homicides so far this year, 2011 has already proven to be the deadliest year in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Department of Justice noted the Puerto Rico Police Department’s inadequate response to hate crimes as among the PRPD’s endemic deficiencies in a damning report it released in September. A federal DOJ spokesperson on Monday declined to comment on the proposed hate crimes provision, but the Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s own statistics confirm that prosecutors have not convicted anyone under the island’s hate crimes law.
Singer Ricky Martin added his voice to the growing chorus of those who oppose the proposed provision.
“All citizens are equal under the law and have, without exception, the right to equal protection under the law,” he wrote on his website, citing the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The House is expected to vote on the revised penal code later this week during a special legislative session.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Puerto Rican lawmakers are poised to vote on a revised penal code this week that could eliminate LGBT-specific categories from the island’s hate crimes law.
The Puerto Rico Senate late last month approved a provision that would eliminate sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity and religion from the current statute—political status, age and disability would remain. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the amended penal code during a special legislative session.
Representative Héctor Ferrer, Sen. Eduardo Bhatia and LGBT and Dominican activists blasted the proposed provisions earlier on Sunday, Dec. 4.
“It’s an outrage and now we’re calling upon the House to restore this to where it should be,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered on the island since gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado was stabbed to death before his decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found along a remote roadside near Cayey in Nov. 2009. The Justice Department noted a lack of prosecution under the island's hate crimes law in damning report on the Puerto Rico Police Department it issued in September.
Monday, November 14, 2011
The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday, Nov. 14, noted that nearly a fifth of all reported hate crime incidents in 2010 were motivated by sexual orientation.
Of the 6,624 hate crime incidents that the FBI documented in 2010, 19.3 percent of them were motivated by sexual orientation bias. Of the 7,690 single-bias offenses documented in the aforementioned incidents, 19.1 percent of them were motivated by sexual orientation.
The FBI’s report further documents that of the 1,470 hate crime offenses motivated by sexual orientation—57.9 percent were classified as “anti-male homosexual bias” and 27.4 percent were reported as “anti-homosexual bias.” Another 11.4 percent were prompted by “an anti-female homosexual bias,” and 1.9 percent were classified as “anti-bisexual bias.” 1.4 percent were prompted by “anti-heterosexual bias.”
The FBI reported 6,598 hate crime incidents in 2009—18.5 percent of those were motivated by sexual orientation. Of the 7,775 single-bias offenses documented in the aforementioned incidents, 18.5 percent of them were motivated by sexual-orientation.
The 2009 report further notes that 55.6 percent of the reported 1,436 offenses motivated by sexual orientation were prompted by “anti-male homosexual bias,” while another 26.2 percent resulted from “anti-homosexual bias.” “Anti-female homosexual bias” prompted 15 percent of these incidents, while another 1.5 percent resulted from “anti-heterosexual bias” and “anti-bisexual bias” motivated 1.7 percent of these crimes.
While the FBI’s report shows only a slight increase in the number anti-gay hate crimes in 2010; hate violence motivated by sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and HIV status remains a serious problem. A National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report documented 27 anti-LGBT murders in 2010—the second highest annual total that the coalition has recorded since 1996. Seventy percent of these victims were people of color and 44 percent of them were transgender women.
The NCAVP report further noted that trans people and people of color are twice as likely to experience violence or discrimination as non-trans white people. Trans people of color are nearly 2.5 times as likely to suffer discrimination as their white counterparts.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Doctor Jill Biden stressed the importance of family acceptance in a speech she delivered at the opening of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National Convention in Alexandria, Va., on Friday, Nov. 4.
“Acceptance by those you love is the greatest acceptance of all,” she said, citing the mother who conceived PFLAG in 1972 after she marched with her gay son in the New York City Pride parade. “As a teacher and a mom, I know what Jeanne Manford knew—that there is a direct connection between acceptance and positive, healthy outcomes in every important area of life, including education, mental health, and physical health.”
Biden specifically referenced the spate of LGBT teenager suicides that have made headlines across the country since Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped off New York City’s George Washington Bridge in Oct. 2010. She also cited the anti-bullying workshops that the White House and the Department of Education have hosted, the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the federal hate crimes law and the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' as demonstrative examples of the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to LGBT Americans.
“This progress is important, but there is still more to do,” said Biden. “At this critical time for education in our country, we need to ensure that our schools are producing the next generation of American leaders and heroes. We must insure that our classrooms are safer for all students to learn, grow, and thrive.”
She spoke about anti-LGBT bullying in the classroom at a Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network event in New York City in June 2009.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Speaking at Cornerstone Action's annual banquet in Manchester, N.H., on Friday, Oct. 28, Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauded lawmakers who back the repeal of New Hampshire's marriage equality law.
"As conservatives we believe in the sanctity of life. We believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage," said Perry, as reported by the Concord Monitor. "I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, realizing that children need to be raised in a loving home by a mother and a father."
Perry made the remarks three days after the House Judiciary Committee recommended repealing the state's marriage equality law. A recent University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found the majority of New Hampshire voters oppose any effort to repeal the statute, but legislators are poised to debate the issue early next year--the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary is likely to take place on Jan. 10.
Only four percent of Republican primary voters would vote for Perry, according to a UNH Survey Center/WMUR poll conducted earlier this month.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Gillibrand Introduces Bill to Ban Discrimination Against Prospective LGBT Adoptive and Foster Parents
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday, Oct. 28, introduced a bill that would prevent any agency that receives federal funding from disqualifying prospective adoptive or foster parents solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
“New York is a leader on ensuring that any family can adopt children and sets a great example for the rest of the country,” said Gillibrand in a statement that announced the introduction of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. She pointed out that New York increased its pool of prospective foster parents by 128,000 when the state eliminated all LGBT-specific barriers.
"This legislation would open thousands of new foster and adoptive homes to children ensuring they are raised in loving families,” added Gillibrand.
Utah, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and Michigan currently bar same-sex couples from adopting children, while six others prohibit gay and lesbian parents from adopting their partner's children. Gillibrand points out that more than two dozen other states do not specifically address treatment of prospective LGBT foster and adoptive parents.
“We must support all qualified adults who are interested in providing a nurturing, adoptive home—regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation," said Linda Spears, vice president of policy and public affairs for the Child Welfare League of America. "Having a real life, caring parent is incredibly important for ensuring a child’s success. Sen. Gillibrand’s bill represents progress for these children whose goal is to simply be loved.”
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was among those on hand to officially unveil a historical marker in front of Giovanni's Room on Sunday, Oct. 9.
Giovanni's Room, which opened in 1973, is the country's oldest continuously operating LGBT bookstore. The ceremony coincided with Philadelphia's annual OutFest.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke at an Immigration Equality fundraiser in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, discussed the prospects of the Uniting American Families Act and the White House's LGBT-specific accomplishments since President Barack Obama took office. She also cited Anthony Makk and Bradford Wells, a bi-national gay couple from San Francisco who faces separation because Makk faces deportation back to his native Australia, in her speech.
Following her speech, Wasserman Schultz conceded that she is not confident that UAFA would become law before the end of this Congress. She also blasted Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain for asserting that homosexuality is a choice during his appearance on "The View" earlier in the day.
Democrats blasted House Republican leaders on Tuesday, Oct. 4, for tripling the cap on the amount of taxpayer money a private lawyer they hire to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act can receive.
Paul Clement would not have been paid more than $500,000 for defending DOMA under the original contract into which House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders had entered. The cap has now been raised to $1.5 million.
“News of the increased payments to DOMA attorneys reached me today, ironically, during a Republican-chaired hearing on a Balanced Budget Amendment, in which Republicans were addressing the apparent need to cut Social Security benefits and programs for the poor,” said New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “Clearly, discriminating against LGBT Americans is a greater priority for them than providing for the welfare of seniors or children.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders joined LGBT rights groups that blasted the increase as hypocritical.
“There seems to be no limit to how much taxpayer money the House Republican leadership is willing to spend to keep this discriminatory law on the books,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “At a time when budgeting is the watchword in Washington, Americans will be rightly aghast at this boondoggle for right-wing lawyers.”
Monday, October 3, 2011
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is among those who are expected to attend a fundraiser for an LGBT immigrants’ rights organization in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Schultz is among the 123 co-sponsors of the Uniting American Families Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow American citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration purposes. New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced UAFA in April.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
President Barack Obama touted his administration's LGBT-specific accomplishments at the Human Rights Campaign's annual National Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Obama cited the federal hate crimes bill, the executive order that mandates any hospital that receives Medicare and Medicaid funds to allow visitation rights for same-sex partners of their patients, the administration's opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' during his 20 minute speech.
Obama also criticized Republican presidential candidates who remained silent when a gay soldier in Iraq who asked a question about 'don't ask, don't tell' during a Sept. 22 debate in Florida was booed.
"We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders--one of whom could end up being the president of the United States--being silent when an American soldier is booed," said Obama to applause. "We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be commander-in-chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient."
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry earlier today introduced a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the housing and credit markets.
The Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act would amend both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Credit Act to ban anti-LGBT discrimination.
"Housing discrimination against LGBT Americans is wrong, but today in most states there isn't a thing you can do about it," said Kerry. "This legislation would end discrimination that continues to hurt people."
New York Congressmen Jerrold Nadler, Steve Israel and Edolphus Towns and U.S. Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.,) Bobby Scott (D-Va.,) Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced a companion bill in the House.
“LGBT Americans, non-traditional families, and the disabled should not be subjected to housing discrimination at the hands of the unscrupulous or bigoted,” said Nadler. “This legislation will ensure that the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act are actually protecting all Americans and guaranteeing people of any sexual orientation, gender identity, marital and familial status, and source of income the right to the housing they choose.”
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Nearly everyone in Cherry Grove, N.Y., turned out for Robert Scherffius and Victor Alfieri's wedding on the beach on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Scherffius and Alfieri, who met in New York City 58 years ago, are among the five same-sex and heterosexual couples who were married in the Grove on Saturday.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Deadlines have kept me away from the blog over the last couple of days, but LGBT New Yorkers certainly had a lot to celebrate over this year's Pride weekend.
Here are two clips from Sunday, June 26, that capture the moment far better than simple words can.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Started writing by the pool at the Grove Hotel in Cherry Grove at 1:38 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.
This weekend’s ambitious agenda included deeply discounted shopping in Fire Island Pines and purchasing the perfect third-hand Invasion frock at the Ice Palace in the Grove, attending Miracle House’s annual Pines fundraiser and Women’s Pride in the Pines at Sip n’ Twirl, covering Porsche’s 10th anniversary show at the Ice Palace and watching a spectacular sunset from the Grove’s dock. Summer has certainly arrived in all its splendid glory!
The last two days have also once again reminded me that there are some truly incredible and amazing people who live, work and certainly play on Fire Island. I remain honored to have the opportunity to share their stories.
Here are three votes and observations from the previous weekend.
1) Grove definitely has a unique way of dealing with idiots and those who become idiots while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
2) Avión may love it hard, but aerial advertisements above the beach certainly do not arouse those who loathe them.
3) The Grove is arguably the only place on earth where one can buy a dress for $10. Accessories and even shoes are sometimes included!
You know it's summer when the Fire Island Ferries parking lot is full by 10 a.m.!
Shopping on Saturdays at Whyte Hall in the Pines.
A bulletin board along Bay View Walk in the Grove.
From atop the roof deck at 548 Beachcomber Walk in the Pines.
The sunset from the Grove dock on Saturday, June 18.
This shopper was busy perusing the racks at the Drag Tag Sale at the Ice Palace in the Grove on Sunday, June 19.
A dress and accessories in a bag!
Monday, June 13, 2011
Boricua pride was on full display in Bushwick and throughout the five boroughs on Sunday, June 12, as roughly two million Nuyoricans turned out for the 54th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade.
At the same time revelers lined Fifth Avenue, more than 22,000 people lined the streets of Boquerón for the city’s ninth annual gay Pride parade. As I have previously reported on the EDGE Media Network, this year’s festivities come less than a week after three LGBT Puerto Ricans were found dead. Eighteen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered over the last year and a half.
Below is a clip from el Nuevo Día of Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force speaking in Boquerón yesterday afternoon. “Enough hate, enough homophobia,” he said. “We are Puerto Ricans.”