Thursday, January 29, 2009

Haggard "comes clean"

In spite of the sheer joy and vindication that comes from the exposure and subsequent downfall of the Rev. Ted Haggard and other hypocrites, there comes a certain sense of compassion for those who feel the need to throw an entire group of people under the bus to maintain their lies and related false sense of self.

I note this observation as Haggard continues to "comes clean" ahead of the release of Alexandra Pelosi's documentary "The Trials of Ted Haggard." The former head of the National Association of Evangelicals' breathtaking downfall because of his crystal methamphetamine use and sex with a male prostitute remains a sort of vindication for those within the movement for LGBT rights who continue to seek to expose these hypocrites. And Grant Haas' accusations only adds fuel to this feeling.

Compassion and love are among the basic tenants of Christian ideals as I have come to understand them. Haggard's hypocrisy towards homosexuals remains an ultimate sin for which many within the movement for LGBT rights cannot forgive him. Pelosi's documentary arguably affords the disgraced evangelical yet another opportunity to "come clean" and even apologize. Those he hurt and threw under the proverbial bus, however, will almost certainly remain highly skeptical.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama marks first week in office

As the vast majority of the world continues to express goodwill towards President Barack Obama, it is arguably appropriate to reflect back upon what the new administration has done since it took office last Tuesday.

1) Obama issued an executive order to close Guantánamo Bay within a year

2) Chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel ordered a review of all last-minute directives made by former President George W. Bush

3) Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the Pentagon would increase the number of troops on the ground in Afghanistan

4) Obama issued executive orders that lifted the bans on federally funded stem cell research and overseas programs that provide abortions or discuss them

The economic crisis continues to rage, the media circus that is Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich shows little sign of abatement and Bernie Madoff and other alleged swindlers remain firmly entrenched onto the headlines, but Obama's first eight days in office certainly provide hope to many the last eight years are quickly becoming a thing of the past. The new commander-in-chief is certainly not a messiah who is going to save the world, but he will almost undoubtedly continue to offer hope and promise to people who really need it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Is Blagojevich crazy or simply delusional?

As the Illinois Senate prepares to launch impeachment proceedings against embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the former Congressman has brought his arguable one person circus to New York to make his case as to why lawmakers should not force him from office. And the ongoing saga appeared to get even more strange when Blagojevich told Diane Sawyer this morning he had considered appointing Oprah Winfrey to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Say what? Blagojevich remains a political pariah in light of allegedly trying to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat, but the story continues to grow even more strange as the governor arguably continues to make himself out to be some sort of populist martyr in a cynical and delusional attempt to save his job. The gig is up Blago... and you are certainly no Gandhi, King or Mandela!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Paterson names Gillibrand to Senate

My EDGE story on Gov. David Paterson's decision to appoint Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.

After weeks of speculation, New York Gov. David Paterson has named Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Clinton.

Paterson and Gillibrand appeared at an Albany press conference earlier today alongside senior U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [D-Manhattan] and other leading Democrats.

"I will represent the many diverse views and voices of the entire state," Gillibrand said.

This announcement caps off nearly two months of speculation after President Barack Obama tapped Hillary Clinton as his choice for Secretary of State. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and openly lesbian United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten were reportedly on the governor’s short list. Caroline Kennedy had also campaigned for the seat until she abruptly withdrew her name earlier this week.

Gillibrand, who represents a traditionally Republican district that includes parts of the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, has backed a number of LGBT-specific pieces of legislation since she was first elected to Congress in 2006. These include the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The Empire State Pride Agenda released a statement shortly after news of Paterson’s choice broke that said Gillibrand expressed her support of marriage for same-sex couples to executive director Alan Van Capelle. She further indicated this support following Paterson’s announcement.

"While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues," Van Capelle said.

Albany-based transgender activist Moonhawk River Stone applauded Gillibrand.

"She’s bright and capable," he said. "She’s a friend to our community."

NARAL Pro-Choice New York also endorsed Gillibrand, but some downstate LGBT activists and politicos remain skeptical. Matthew Carlin, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, expressed doubt over Gillibrand’s record. He also criticized her National Rifle Association endorsement and her vote against the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

"She’s a lot more conservative than Hillary," Carlin said. "It makes sense to replace Hillary with someone of similar leanings."

Stone conceded Gillibrand is more conservative on some issues than other New York Democrats, but he said he remains optimistic she will represent New York well in the Senate.

"Candidates that can take an endorsement from the NRA can vote for a trans-inclusive ENDA," Stone said. "We have to be mature enough as a community to understand that."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Caroline Kennedy and the inaugural after glow

New York's political establishment remains in quasi-turmoil after Caroline Kennedy announced early this morning she had withdrawn her bid to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate, but contacts and friends who traveled to Washington on Tuesday continue to bask in something of an inaugural glow.

Attached are a series of pictures my friend Paul took from the Washington Mall.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Obama administration goes to work

With the Obama administration in the White House for less than 24 hours, it has already gone to work to reverse some of its predecessor's decisions and broader policies. I awoke this morning to the promising news Obama had issued an executive order to suspend military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay for 120 days. This mandate followed an announcement of a complete review of Bush directives. And the inclusion of LGBT rights on the new White House homepage. Change has certainly begun!

Obama's inauguration certainly marks a monumental milestone in American history, but his administration and the arguably unrealistic expectations under which it will govern pose a conundrum as I pointed out on a WNYC blog yesterday. The arguable long national nightmare of the last eight years of the Bush administration is mercifully earlier, but perhaps we can all take stock of Obama's message of personal responsibility and self-determination in the midst of seemingly innumerable odds. Today is indeed a new day, and hopefully the American people will continue to take note of that as the country confronts the tasks at hand.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama becomes 44th president

The more than 100 people who gathered to watch the inauguration at the LGBT Community Center in lower Manhattan erupted into applause after Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. WNYC will continue to post my blogs in the coming hours, but attached are some pictures from West 13th Street.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Boy in Bushwick blogs the inauguration for WNYC

This post is admittedly rather short, but I am pleased to announce I will blog the inauguration for WNYC. The station posted my first blog on its homepage earlier this morning. I will have at least three more commentaries in the coming days, but check out WNYC and this blog for further updates.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

HBO neglects to include Robinson's inaugural prayer in broadcast

Openly gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson delivered his inaugural prayer at the Lincoln Memorial earlier today in spite of HBO's highly unfortunate failure to not include it in its broadcast. The channel's decision will almost certainly leave a very bitter taste in the mouths of those activists and others who remain upset at President-elect Barack Obama's decision to invite the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation on Tuesday. I will have more thoughts the Saddleback Church founder in coming blogs, but for now I've posted the text of Robinson's prayer from the Diocese of New Hampshire's Web site.

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Boy in Bushwick discusses Bush's legacy on BBC

As the debate over President George W. Bush's legacy continues to rage in this country and around the world, the British Broadcasting Corporation provided me the opportunity to enter into the fray today on its "World Have Your Say" program.

It is certainly true terrorists have not attacked the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. It is also correct on face value to assert the Bush administration's efforts to combat HIV and AIDS in Africa have delivered some tangible results. The fact remains, however, the White House's conduct with regards to the so-called War on Terror, its arguable failure to regulate an economy that continues to slide into a deeper and deeper recession and the pursuit of socially conservative positions that observers can easily interpret as a failed attempt to deflect attention away from its response to Hurricane Katrina and other domestic failures are among the innumerable things for which the outgoing administration must answer.

Bush will obviously continue to defend his overall record. Vice President Dick Cheney will do the same as he has done in interviews with PBS' Jim Lehrer and other reporters in recent weeks. It is safe to conclude Bush polarized the country to a new and arguably frightening degree during his eight years in office. He arguably failed to win election in 2000 and he managed to secure only 50.7 percent of the vote in 2004. The anti-Bush rhetoric will continue to rage as the country looks forward to President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration and his first few months in the White House. The fact remains, however, the outgoing commander-in-chief's extremely complex legacy has only begun to reveal itself.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chicago newspaper reports Obama's previous support of marriage for same-sex couples

With less than a week until Barack Obama becomes the 44th president, an LGBT newspaper in Chicago has published statements the incoming commander-in-chief made in support of marriage for same-sex couples.

Obama expressed what the Windy City Times described in a press release as "unequivocal support for gay marriage" in an answer to questions Trudy Ring asked during his Illinois state Senate campaign in 1996. This position counters more recent statements that indicate he no longer supports marriage for gays and lesbians. Is this an example of a politically motivated shift?

The answer to the question is almost certainly yes. A clear case can be made the majority of self-professed moderate Americans support the expansion of rights to LGBT Americans. Marriage for same-sex couples, however, remains something the majority of this crucial political constituency does not back. Polls indicate more Americans support gay and lesbian nuptials, but the fact remains this issue continues to garner significant opposition.

Obama's message of hope resonated with the millions of Americans who voted for him on Nov. 4, but at the end of the day he is a politician who recognizes the need to nuance his positions in order to maintain crucial constituencies. His shift away from marriage for same-sex couples is arguably a disappointment to many within the movement for LGBT rights and the broader progressive community, but it is reflective of his intention to govern the country from the middle.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Openly gay bishop to offer inaugural prayer

Arguably one of the most inspirational figures within the movement for LGBT rights, openly gay New Hampshire V. Gene Robinson will offer a prayer to open President-elect Barack Obama's first inauguration event at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.

I had the distinct privilege of interviewing Robinson in June 2004. I also had the honor of attending his 2003 consecration at the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire. Robinson's never-ending compassion and empathy for those he routinely describes as "at the margins" continues to generate enormous good will in my native New Hampshire and around the world.

Some cynics may try to point out Obama's decision to select Robinson is an attempt to deflect attention away from the controversy over tapping the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural convocation. Robinson, a long-time Obama supporter, himself criticized the decision in an interview with the Concord [N.H.] Monitor last month. He added, however, he feels his presence in Washington will send a powerful message.

"It's important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way," Robinson told the newspaper. "Whether it be a racial minority, an ethnic minority or, in our case, a sexual minority. Just seeing someone like you up front matters."


Friday, January 9, 2009

SWiSH to host volunteer expo in lower Manhattan

With the seemingly endless stream of bad news that dominated media headlines this week, perhaps it is obligatory to take a step back and focus on groups that truly try to make a difference. Straight Women in Support of Homos [SWiSH] is arguably one such group.

SWiSH unapologetically relies upon pink kitsch and the ever-present fag hag to advocate for and support their gay brothers. The group's first volunteer expo will take place at the Housing Works Bookstore Café on Crosby Street in Soho. And below is an article I posted on EDGE New York earlier this week.

A self-described fag hag, SWiSH [Straight Women in Support of Homos] president and co-founder Sue Sena came to the realization there was a need for a kitschy pink organization to advocate for and support gays and lesbians after she attended New York’s annual LGBT pride parade in 2002 with a group of gay friends. Sena and her friends joked the parade needed a fag hag float, but the idea soon evolved into something more.

"I was really... impacted by the spirit and the energy and the pride about everyone being able to come together and to be out, loud and proud on this given day," she told EDGE in a recent interview. "I was really struck by that."

SWiSH incorporated into a non-profit in 2003. It has members in 34 states with an Atlanta chapter that formed in 2007. Sena said the group’s unique acronym carries added significance.

"We liked the energy and movement of the word swish and we wanted to take it back and make it a very positive thing," she said. "Swish for us represented this big, beautiful and high energy group of people and it was never derogatory to us."

Sena and her cohorts will bring their unique brand of activism to their first volunteer expo for LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations at the Housing Works Bookstore Café on Crosby Street in Soho on Monday, Jan. 12. AIDS Walk New York, the Anti-Violence Project, God’s Love We Deliver, the Hetrick-Martin Institute and Will Clark’s Porno Bingo are among the organizations scheduled to participate. And Sena said she feels President-elect Barack Obama’s historic election and expanding support for LGBT rights have sparked increased interest in volunteering and even activism.

"There’s a lot of emotion and we wanted to galvanize that emotion to educate gay and straight communities on how to take action and to make a difference in the community," she said.

Sena added she feels SWiSH’s coordination of the expo helps counter the misconception her organization simply throws great gatherings to bring gays and straights together.

"For us and for our members... it’s always been about the personal is political," she said. "We’re committed to not just sitting back and just sitting by as our gay and lesbian friends are being treated as second class citizens."

The expo will take place at the Housing Works Bookstore Café (126 Crosby St., New York) on Monday, Jan. 12, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Log onto for more information.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Blagojevich, Burris and Reid

With President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration less than two weeks away, the ongoing saga over embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's decision to select Roland Burris as the incoming commander-in-chief's successor in the U.S. Senate continues to descend into even more political theatre.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] refused to seat Burris. He cited Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's decision to not certify Blagojevich's selection because of the corruption allegations under which federal authorities arrested him early last month. The Associated Press reported earlier this morning Democrats had decided to seat Burris, but the Chicago Tribune later indicated Reid would seat Obama's successor only if the Illinois Supreme Court orders White to sign off on the appointment.

Blagojevich's appointment of Burris to succeed Obama in the U.S. Senate is perfectly legal, but his decision remains a brillant act of defiance against his innumerable critics who continue to call for his resignation. Capitol Hill's circus-like atmosphere yesterday in light of an expanding recession, the conflict on the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Israel and a virtual laundry list of other problems the Democratically-controlled Congress must tackle in the coming months threatens to make skeptical Americans more cynical of the politicians who claim to represent their interest. Let's hope Reid and company come to a quick solution and get back to the people's business.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Post-Prop 8 analysis indicates black support less than originally thought

As the movement for LGBT rights continues to examine how Proposition 8 passed in California, researchers Patrick Egan from New York University and Kenneth Sherrill at Hunter College co-authored a report that indicates fewer black voters supported the amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples than initially reported.

The report suggests 58 percent of African American voters (as opposed to roughly 70 percent) backed Prop 8. Egan and Sherrill's research further indicates party affiliation, religiosity and age were among the factors that influenced the Prop 8 vote most.

There was no discussion about No on 8's apparent failures as outlined in a separate report Marriage Equality USA released yesterday. MEUSA cited the campaign's failure to utilize LGBT-affirming clergy and the exclusion of same-sex couples and their families from advertisements as among the factors that contributed to Prop 8's passage. This debate will obviously continue to take place, but the fact some LGBT and allied people continue to scapegoat black voters in the post-Prop 8 analysis and debate remains an unfortunate reality.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Israel launches Gaza ground offensive

Israel's decision to launch an expected ground offensive into the Gaza Strip on Saturday has sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity to enact a cease fire that expired last month. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly and Congressman Gary Ackerman [D-New York] traveled to Sderot near the Gaza border on Sunday. And his honor was forced to take shelter after a siren warned of a possible rocket attack.

The all too obvious political implications cannot go unstated as Bloomberg lays the ground work for his re-election campaign, but his trip to the Jewish state represents the global concern, outrage, solidarity and sympathy that continues to grow as the Israel Defense Forces expand its offensive and civilian casualties inside the Gaza Strip and in Southern Israel continue to grow. This escalation may raise the obvious (or less than clear) questions: How is this conflict any different those that have raged in the Holy Land for more than 60 years? Why should the international community continue to stick its neck into what can arguably be described as ongoing disputes between Israelis and Palestinians? Is there hope the seemingly never-ending conflict will end?

The answers to these questions are arguably obvious depending upon who provides them. One thing that can be said with utmost certainty is the scenes that continue to emerge from the Gaza Strip and southern Israel are extremely disturbing. Hamas and the IDF have a fundamental responsibility to ensure civilians on both sides of the border are not caught in this seemingly never-ending cycle of violence. To fail on this basic account is nothing short of criminal.