August 04, 2007

Positive Movement in Two Key States

I'm posting about two stories here that show where the battles for GLBT equality are really being fought; on a state-by-state level. In two of those states, California and Virginia, attitudes are changing and progress could be made.

The Bay Area Reporter tells us that there was some movement from Republicans in the California state legislature toward the direction of equal rights in this year's session.

A surprising change has occurred with Republican lawmakers during this year's legislative session in Sacramento. They are voicing less dissent to LGBT legislation, and some GOP members are casting "aye" votes when it comes to certain gay rights measures.

The actions of the minority party in the state Capitol have not gone unnoticed. Last week the Assembly passed on a 70-1 vote a resolution urging Congress and President Bush to pass LGBT-inclusive federal hates crimes legislation.

Immediately afterward, Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, noted in a press release that the resolution passed with "historic bipartisan support." Joining 46 Democrats were 24 Republicans in favor of the measure, the most bipartisan support ever received in the California Legislature for a measure affecting the LGBT community, according to EQCA.

Meanwhile, the Washington Blade reports that there is some hope for a breakthrough in Virginia, a staunchly anti-gay state:

It might take five years, but Virginia could eventually see its anti-gay marriage amendment modified to clear the way for domestic partnerships or civil unions, according to a speaker at a gay rights conference here last weekend.

David Lampo, vice president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Virginia, told the Blade that improving the climate in the state for gays can be done through individual bills in a piecemeal fashion.

“I think if we can do some of these issues a baby step at a time we should get them through,” he said. “It might take longer, but hopefully in five years we can get the marriage amendment modified and at least have domestic partnerships and civil unions so we’re not constitutionally prohibited like we are now.”

Lampo said there are plenty of interim measures that could advance gay rights in the notoriously anti-gay state. One strategy is to broaden support for gay issues by reaching out to different groups, especially those that would benefit from non-discrimination policies and domestic partnership benefits, especially universities.

“If we got that accomplished it will be a great boon,” he said.

The Log Cabin Republicans were also cited in the story about progress in the California GOP. A while back I asked how a gay person could be active in the Republican party, and I received some thoughtful responses that express the view that working for change from within was a viable option that could make a difference.

While I am still somewhat sceptical of that approach, these are two examples of where it might actually be working that way.

August 03, 2007

Democratic Movement on Gay Rights

Yesterday I wrote about how viable Democratic (and, of course Republican) presidential candidates are sidestepping the issue of same-sex marriage. However, this article from The Politico (a political newspaper in Washington, DC) indicates that the Democrats are stepping up to the plate on other GLBT issues:

The Democrats' apparent newfound confidence on gay issues -- a confidence, to be fair, that hasn't yet been tested by general election pressures -- has two sources. There's a broad cultural shift, indicated by polling, toward public support for gay rights.

And the shift comes as Democrats feel confident that Republicans -- weakened and tied to an unpopular war in Iraq -- will be unable to turn gay rights into the high-profile wedge issue it was in 2004.

"It's a very different time four years later," said the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, whose group also sponsored a debate in 2003 that was attended by all the leading candidates other than then-Sen. John Edwards.

"It's the American people and these candidates being in a more enlightened place on (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) issues. And it's an emboldened view that the electorate is not going to let this field stray away from what really matters to the American people."

It will be interesting to see how far the candidates will go during the HRC/Logo Network televised debate on Thursday, August 9th. It will be even more interesting to see, if one of them is elected, how they then back it up with action.

There is a spirited debate going on tagged to The Politico article that is worth checking out and participating in.

August 02, 2007

Calling Out the Presidential Candidates

That's what Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, did in this post on the Task Force's blog, OutSpoken. Here are some excerpts.

The Democratic candidates for president, as a group and individually, express more support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and legislative and policy initiatives to improve our lives than any prior set of presidential candidates in the history of American politics. These new standards of support for LGBT people are worthy of our applause, our appreciation and our accolades.

Since 1980, we have suffered the gross indignities of defamations and slanders from a ravenous and rapacious right-wing anti-gay movement, a veritable industry churning out anti-LGBT propaganda at every turn. We endured the AIDS epidemic and the Reagan administration’s cruel indifference while our people fell to illness and then to death. We saw the U.S. Supreme Court uphold state laws that branded us criminals for our sexuality. We have been clubbed by an onslaught of ballot questions that put our lives up to popular vote. Time and again, we’vebeen thrown under the political bus by politicians either in the White House or those who want to get there.

All of this misery has been exacerbated exponentially by the spinelessness or unwillingness of all but a few national leaders to take a stand for us and denounce the animus unleashed on us. Many of our “friends” have simply looked the other way.

We bear our scars and yet remain unbowed. But, we are still waiting for the country’s political leadership to defend our right to live and thrive as a matter of principle, not parse our dreams as a matter of misguided political calculation.

We deserve and we must demand from the Democratic 2008 presidential candidates the simple and straightforward statement that our humanity requires full respect and fair treatment by all and, further, an equally simple and straightforward condemnation of those who seek to use our lives for political gain. This needs to be said in front of all audiences — not just in front of us.

We need leadership. We need strength of vision. And we need to know that the promises of reform come from the candidates' understanding of LGBT people as inseparable from the national community in which we live. There can be no more equivocating or silence about the goodness of our personhood, our families, our relationships. Period.

There's plenty more to read in the full blog entry. It's time for the Deomcratic party to stop taking the GLBT vote for granted and earn it. It's also time for someone, anyone with even the slimest chance of getting elected (sorry, Dennis Kucinich, that leaves you out) to take a stand based on what's right, not what polls the best.

They would have my vote and enthusiastic endorsement. At this point, I'm waiting but not holding my breath.

August 01, 2007

Is the Church Producing Athiests?

That's the concern raised in this piece from the Christian Post.

"...some of the recurring questions young adults struggle with but churches often fail to address include the formation and development of the Bible, the presence of evil and suffering in the world, and the question of inspiration and inerrancy.

“In large part, it happens when the church leadership is completely unaware that their members – and not necessarily just the young members – have questions at all,” explained Horvath to The Christian Post. “And [they] continue merrily along thinking that to retain the youth they just need to be entertained.”

Young people question whether they should trust the Bible since it “is so old,” and are not satisfied with the simple answer that they should trust it because God wrote it. Horvath explains that though they understand that to be the Christian position, they want to know how they can be sure of that.

I'm sure one of the more challenging questions young people are asking is why does the church hate homosexuals. As most readers here know, there isn't much of an answer except to cherry pick a few isolated scripture verses, and even then it presents an arguement that doesn't go much beyond "God says so, and so do we."

What I think is an even tougher issue for young people to reconcile is the hypocrisy of church leaders preaching love while they practice bigotry and discrimination, preaching peace while supporting a president who promotes a senseless war, and preaching giving while idolizing material possessions.

If that's all I had to go on, I'd probably have trouble believing there really was a God myself, at least the one the church would be trying to shove down my throat while reaching for my checkbook at the same time.

Fortunately, the God in the Bible doesn't discriminate. He truly loves peace, and he is not materialistic. Christians who understand that need to set an example to support what God truly is. We need to let people see Him through how we live our lives; imperfectly to be sure, but still demonstrating the goodness of Jesus, the New Testament God. We all have the opportunity to live under that covenant.

In today's society, it's no wonder young people don't find the Old Testament God all that appealing. There are churches, and I'm proud to belong to one of them, Believers Covenant Fellowship, that preaches about Jesus and encourages people to go out into the world and live like Him. That way we can help lead people through all that smoke most of the larger demoninations are blowing and show them how to reach out to our true Lord and Savior.

July 31, 2007

Activism Pays Off in New Jersey

From The New York Blade:

After persuasion from New Jersey's governor and attorney general, United Parcel Service of America announced Monday that it would extend health insurance benefits to the civil union partners of gay employees.

The policy change has to do with New Jersey's civil unions law, which took effect in February, and seeks to give gay couples the same rights in the state as married couples.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine sent Atlanta-based UPS a letter on July 20 asking the shipping giant to change its stance.

The company had previously said that civil union partners were legally different from spouses, and therefore, the partners were not entitled to the same benefits that spouses of the company's hourly workers receive.

Gay rights advocates say UPS's legal interpretation was faulty.

They say that many other employers, though, have taken the same stance. The advocates maintain that gay couples would get equal treatment only if they are allowed to marry.
UPS spokesman Norman Black said the company is reviewing its policies in Connecticut and Vermont, which also offer civil unions.

Management and administrative staff in the company nationwide already receive domestic partnership benefits.

Before Monday, the company had said it would extend them to all its hourly union workers, but couldn't outside its collective bargaining agreement. So, only hourly employees in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, received the benefits for their partners.

You can bet that this change of course by UPS was also influenced by the advocacy efforts of groups like Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal among others. Kudos to them and Governor Corzine for their continued efforts to see that the laws of New Jersey are properly enforced.

Lambda Legal has more on their website about this decision and the civil union laws in New Jersey. Click here to read that information.

July 30, 2007

Human Rights Are Not a Bargaining Chip

I ran across this piece on Talk to Action which I couldn't agree with more. I hope you do too. Here's the key points for me:

Human Rights are Not Political Commodities

We understand the same First Amendment that guarantees separation of church and state guarantees the rights of Christian conservatives to defend their views in the public square, and to seek redress of grievances through a variety of political and social channels.

In recent months, however, we have seen indications that some in the leadership of the Democratic Party, and some of its candidates for public office, are seeking the votes of Christian conservatives by suggesting there is room to compromise on reproductive rights and gay rights.

While public debates over social issues are a sign of a healthy democracy; we do not believe is proper for politicians to negotiate away basic human rights for any group of people in the United States.

The problem is not “gay rights” or “gay marriage.” The problem is building a society where the basic human rights of all people are respected and defended. Under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, there is no such thing as “Special Rights.” When some Christian conservatives claim that gay people want “Special Rights,” it is a falsehood. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors in LGBTQ communities, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.

They shouldn't be, anyway. When you are deciding who to vote for in the 2008 elections, I hope you try to find someone who would not make that kind of trade.

July 29, 2007

Younger Gay Athletes Coming Out in Locker Rooms

While the atmosphere in professional sports locker rooms is still perceived as being too homophobic for athletes to be comfortable coming out as gay, the attitudes among high school and college athletes and their teammates appears to be changing and becoming more accepting.

A 2007 Gallup poll found that 57% of Americans viewed homosexuality as an "acceptable alternative lifestyle," an increase of 11 percentage points from four years ago. The percentage was higher among 18- to 29-year-olds.

Almost three-quarters of heterosexual adults said they would not change their feelings toward a favorite male athlete if he came out, according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications.

"It's not like the old days," said David Kopay, a former National Football League player who stirred controversy by announcing he was homosexual in 1975.

This article from the Los Angeles Times chronicles the coming out of several young athletes, some of whom still faced prejudice but are all handling it and glad they did come out.

Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip.