December 31, 2007

Who Says TV Is a Waste of Time

Okay, often that is the case, but as this story from PageOneQ points out, not totally.

It truly is the season for giving, and to honor that tradition, a fan of
the popular show The L Word has donated $1 million to the Dr. Susan Love
Research Foundation in the name of some the show's most prolific stars. Actress
Erin Daniels who portrays a gay breast cancer victim on the series inspired the
anonymous donation.

The L Word, which is set mostly in the trendy world of Los Angeles, centers
around the lives of a group of lesbian friends and was developed after the
overwhelming success of the Showtime drama Queer as Folk. Slated for its fifth
season to begin in 2008, the show stars Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig, Pam
Grier and Leisha Hailey.

Daniels played Dana Fairbanks, Hailey's lover on the show, who discovered
she had breast cancer in season three and eventually died of heart failure. The
generous donor recognized the realism and truth the actress brought to the
breast cancer story line and made the largest private donation to the Foundation

The $1 million gift will be used to establish The Erin Daniels and Leisha
Hailey Fund for Breast Cancer and all donations will be given to the Love
Research Foundation.

"There are very few times in a woman's life where she feels she's been
lucky enough to be part of something that will change lives," Daniels said in a
press release. "This is one of those times. I am overwhelmed that my portrayal
of Dana's story has inspired such an act of kindness and generosity, and elated
to be part of it. I am thankful that so many women will be given hope due to Dr.
Love's program."

In addition to that generosity, the anonymous donor intends to match dollar
for dollar every donation made to the fund, which supports research aimed to end
breast cancer in our lifetime.

"It is an honor that our breast cancer story line touched someone in such a tremendous way that she so generously gave to such a tragic illness, Hailey told the Advocate.

For more information about the Foundation, or to make a donation visit:

December 30, 2007

A Family Worth Knowing

Lavender Magazine in Minnesota brings us the story of the Reitans, one of the families featured in the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So."

In times of crisis and in times of joy, a family comes together and rises
like a phoenix, overcoming its struggles as a united force. The Reitan
family—father, Philip; mother, Randi; children, Britta, Josh, Ben, and
Jacob—have faced personal, public, and political battles that have made them
stronger than ever. The obstacles and the triumphs have brought them to a point
where they can take on any challenge.

What makes the Reitans’s profile so compelling is how a quiet Lutheran
family from the Midwest had their lives transformed in the blink of an eye.
While the world at large can follow their story from the comfort of a theater
seat in less than two hours, the real story started 10 years ago, and continues
to unfold to this day. As a 15-year-old sophomore, Jacob, the youngest of four
children, first came out to his sister, Britta.

Jacob recalls, “My sister was home from her first year at college. It
was tremendously difficult for me to actually say I was gay. I think it is for
anybody the first time they come out. The act of doing so can feel like such a
Pandora’s box event. But despite my struggle to actually say the words, I felt
safe, because I knew my sister would be supportive of me. Time and again, before
my coming out, she made statements to me and others in support of gay rights. In
retrospect, those statements were so important in making me feel safe in my own

Click here to read the rest of the story in Lavender Magazine.

December 29, 2007

A Wish for More Effective Activism in 2008

This column from the Washington Blade states the view that GLBT activists need to work both smarter and harder in 2008 to move further down the road to equality.
The GLBT community should be proud of what we accomplished in 2007. But
there is definitely a feeling of frustration that we couldn’t do more. We passed
hate crimes in both houses of Congress and a version of ENDA in one, but didn’t
get all that we wanted.

We have commitments from all the Democratic candidates to work for equal
federal benefits for state-approved civil unions, to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
and to finally sign inclusive hate crimes and ENDA legislation if we can get
them through Congress.

I choose to see this as the glass half full; others see it as half empty.
We have seen the frustration produce a rift in our community that needs to heal.
We must work together if we are to move forward and accomplish what we all agree
is the goal, full human and civil rights.

To do this, the community must demand that our National Organizations stop
trying to compete with each other and work together. I think we may actually
need a new organization, a real grass-roots one that can lobby effectively on
all issues and support our national organizations with the ability to reach the
GLBT community, without regard to any one issue. We need to target our outreach
and lobbying efforts to communities and legislators who don’t yet support us
rather than fighting with those who do.

There is no one organization that speaks for our entire community and
probably no one organization ever will. It is time to clarify what it is that
each of the organizations does best.

December 28, 2007

Progress in Oregon (Updated-Progress Delayed)

The state of Oregon has passed laws legalizing domestic partnerships and protecting GLBT against discrimination, both of which will go into effect on Tuesday.

This article from the Salem, OR StatesmanJournal goes into more detail and, for your Oregonians, has links to the official state sites explaining more about the domestic partnership law and how to apply for it. To put it in football terms, this is not yet a touchdown but does move the ball well down the field.

Salem pastor Don Frueh and his partner, Robert Barzler, already have sealed
their union as a couple on their own terms. They conducted a ceremonial blessing
of their home when they bought a house together 3 1/2 years ago, and jokingly
refer to themselves as "Robald Fruzler," a joint moniker that blends their names
and hairstyles.

Next month, Frueh and Barzler intend to legally formalize their eight-year
relationship by
entering into a domestic partnership.

The Oregon Legislature enacted a domestic partnership law in 2007, along
with a companion measure barring discrimination against gays, lesbians,
bisexuals and transgendered people. The two laws take effect in January, marking
a historic breakthrough for Oregon's gay-rights movement.

Frueh, associate pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in
Salem, has conducted past ceremonies to sanctify unions of same-sex couples in
the congregation. But those didn't bring any legal recognition.

When Frueh, Barzler and other same-sex couples enter into a contractual
domestic partnership, they'll gain most of the benefits accorded to married
couples under state law.

This report from PageOneQ tells us that a federal judge placed this law on hold pending a hearing on the petition that aims to put this issue on the ballot as a referendum.

December 27, 2007

Let's Focus on the Positive Stories

I've been writing this blog for 2 1/2 years, and I've spent a good part of that time mocking or raging aginst the stupidity/hatred/bigotry of those who work so hard to deny basic rights to GLBT people.

As I'm moving toward a larger role in ministry, I don't want to do that anymore. There are enough people to write about the knuckleheads, but I think we tend to run a bit short of people featuring positive stories. I'll keep posting about the critical political happenings that affect the GLBT community, but I'm going to focus more on stories like this one from the Bay Windows newspaper in Boston, where Rev. Martin McKee is reaching out to the local GLBT people, not through politics but by loving them like Jesus would.

McLee prefers to live out his commitment to LGBT equality quietly. And he
sees himself more as a bridge builder than an advocate for any particular
constituency. "My approach is to lead by example with a resolve of seeking
justice and finding ways to be in community," he explains. "One of my biggest
challenges as a person - forget a pastor - in Boston is to build community in a
place where people are so comfortable just being in homogenous groups. And I’m
not used to that and don’t want to ever get used to that. So for me bridging
divides is a healthy and normative experience and certainly to the gay and
lesbian and straight communities, bridging those divides is a helpful journey.
It’s part of [how] I see myself in my ministerial role - in my humanity role -
trying to get folk to just come across the street and meet your neighbor."

December 26, 2007

A Reasonable Perspective on Same-Sex Marriage

This editorial from the Tampa Tribune does not support same-sex marriage, not even close. However, neither does it support the building battle in Florida over a state constitutional amendment banning it either. Expousing the view of most reasonable people, the editorial points out that, support or oppose same-sex marriage, there are more wide-reaching issues for voters to worry about in November, and better things for the amendment's supporters to spend their time and money on. A sense of perspective is something sadly lacking from the right-wing, and this editorial is another example that more people are realizing that is the case.

We're sympathetic to those who would protect traditional marriage as a
sacred trust. These are people who fear for our culture and lament the loss of
respect for the institution. But changing the constitution, when it hasn't
proven necessary, is not the way to do it.

Americans have grown more tolerant of their gay and lesbian neighbors and
are appalled by the violence and discrimination some have faced.

A number of state and local governments have responded by outlawing
discrimination based on a person's sexual preference. And an increasing number
of businesses are granting spousal benefits to homosexual partners as a way of
retaining valuable employees.

Homosexuals should not be denied employment, public accommodation or any of
the civil liberties enjoyed by Americans.

But marriage is not simply a civil rights issue. It is an amalgam of faith,
values and tradition. Changing its definition is no trifling manner.

But make no mistake. Gay marriage is not the biggest threat to the
institution of marriage. Bigger assaults are exposed by divorce rates and the
growing number of out-of-wedlock births. Almost half of marriages today end in
divorce. In Florida, one in four babies is born to an unwed mother.

To best defend the institution of marriage, we should quit looking for
bogeymen where there are none.

December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone

Well, Pastor Brenda and I have our Christmas plans all lined up. We're sharing the day with her mother, one or two of her sisters, and as yet unannounced nephews. All in all, we are blessed with the opportunity to have a typical family holiday.

That doesn't mean I've lost track of the fact that some of my readers will not have the chance to enjoy that blessing this year for a variety of reasons. That's why I'm posting this link to a wonderful resource that gathered scriptures, audio bible readings, some of the classic hymns, commentaries, sermons and even artwork so you can have your own private Christmas celebration.

Christmas: Celebrating the First Advent of Christ

It may not be the most festive you've ever had, but it sure will help you get/stay focused on what the day is all about, the birth of the Savior of all mankind.

Regardless of how you spend the day, I hope you will enjoy it.

God bless and have a merry Christmas,


December 23, 2007

An Interesting Twist On Pride Day

What would happen if a church took over responsibility for a major city's Pride Day? We may soon find out in Washington, DC.

A non-profit corporation linked to D.C.’s Westminster Presbyterian Church
has emerged as one of three organizations competing to replace the
Whitman-Walker Clinic as the controlling entity behind Capital Pride, the
organization that produces Washington’s Gay Pride parade and festival at an
annual cost of about $120,000.

The Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation, which Westminster
Presbyterian Church created to spur economic development in low-income
neighborhoods, joined the D.C. GLBT Community Center and a newly formed entity
called Capital Pride Alliance in submitting competing proposals on Dec. 11 to
Whitman-Walker to obtain the rights to produce the annual Pride events.

Whitman-Walker announced on Oct. 11 that it was “exploring options” to
withdraw from its role as the producing agent and primary financial underwriter
of Capital Pride. Chief executive officer Don Blanchon said the change would
allow the Clinic to focus more on its “core mission” of providing health care
services to the GLBT community and people with HIV and AIDS.

Read the rest of the story from the Washington Blade.

Vermont continues to make strides toward full inclusion in marriage!


Vermont Commission Mulling Gay Marriage Nears End

(Montpelier, Vermont) A state appointed commission looking into Vermont's civil unions law and tasked with determining if it should be amended to provide for same-sex marriage is nearing its completion.

The commission has just three more public hearings - scheduled to end in mid February - before it begins to prepare its report to the legislature.

The Commission on Family Recognition and Protection this week held hearings in Montpelier and was told that while the state's civil union law - the first of its kind in the nation - was a step forward same-sex couples still are not equal.

It was the first time the traveling commission heard deputations in the state's capital city and the session was a far cry from hearings that were conducted seven years ago when the state was considering the civil unions bill.

Then, dozens of people from conservative groups opposed to the bill denounced the measure and protestors carried signs outside.

This time there were no voices of dissent.

"Separate but equal did not work as a compromise in the civil rights movement and it doesn't work here," Elaine Parker told the commission.

Justice of the Peace Beth Diamond said recalled that she had been excited to perform her first civil union and then realized it was no different than performing a civil marriage.

"I had two people before me who loved each other very much," she said. "And I was lucky enough to have the honor to be officiating at their ceremony."

Robert Appel, the executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, disputed claims from some opponents of same-sex marriage that they would harm traditional marriages.
"Civil unions have not weakened our communities," he said. "If anything, they have enhanced them."

The citizens commission was appointed in July by the leaders of Vermont's House and Senate - both Democrats (story).

It is chaired by former state Rep. Tom Little (D). Little. When he was a member of the legislature Little was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, when it passed the law legalizing civil unions in 2000.

The committee will present its report to the legislature in the spring, but nothing is expected to be done about it until after next year's election. That would mean there is no likelihood of a bill before 2009.

Exciting news for folks like me who still hope that we will see gay marriage codified in the United States in our lifetime!

December 22, 2007

Review of "The God Box"

I'm a bit late with this, but in case you have not heard about the novel "The God Box" by Alex Sanchez, you should. I haven't had time to read and review it, so I'm linking to a review written by my friend David W. Shelton.

In Alex Sanchez’ newest novel for young readers, The God Box introduces a
teenage boy to the greatest struggle of his life: his sexuality. The Lambda
Award-winning author of Getting It tackles a subject ripped from headlines in
this exciting and thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be both
Christian and gay in a small, Southern town.

I’m not sure if I can adequately relate just how refreshing it was to read
a book that so accurately portrays the struggle that young gay Christians
endure. I’ve seen so many stories about young gay teens and adults that are all
about the sex, drugs, and clubbing that is so often associated with the gay

To me, “refreshing,” is neither accurate nor appropriate to describe my
feelings as I read through its pages. A far better word is “living.” This is a
story about life, faith, and love in a way that is as crisp as it is

You can read the rest of the review on Clarkesville Online.

December 21, 2007

Students Finding Strength and Acceptance in Gay-Straight Alliance

Sometimes kids get it better than adults. Here's a group outside San Francisco that is building a thriving Gay-Straight Alliance group in their high school.

From the San Mateo County Times:

For many of the student members of Half Moon Bay High School's
Gay-Straight Alliance, life inside the club is a lot easier than life outside

Whether they are gay or straight, club members often find themselves mocked
by the student body for possessing the very quality that helps them make friends
with other club members: being different.

"I think people are put down if they're gay, especially in high school. I'm
not gay, but I want to stop the criticism. If we were all gay, we would make fun
of straight people. That doesn't make any sense, so why should we make fun of
gay people?" asked club member Russell Crispin, 15, who says he has several gay
and lesbian family members. Since founding the Gay-Straight Alliance in
September, the club's 30-odd members have developed other traits in common: They
are opinionated, and they are determined to defend and support students' rights
to a harassment-free high school experience. They also love to have fun.

A recent after-school meeting saw both laughter and moments of sadness as
club members shared their accounts of what it is like to be gay or to be a
friend to someone who is gay. They kept themselves busy making rose-a-grams —
roses with little notes attached that students purchased to give their friends,
in honor of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. The effort raised $125 toward AIDS

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Survivor: Another Gay Man Wins!

Jim and Brenda know that Erica and I enjoy watching Survivor on television. This season's winner, Todd, was interviewed on Logo Online and I read the interview with great interest. Todd is a 22-year old gay Mormon.

What I found interesting about him is that he didn't seem overt about his sexuality on the show, as so many gay players have been in the past. It turns out that it was edited that way. He came out to the women of his tribe the first night! He was asked how a women named Leslie, who was identified as a Christian radio host, responded to his being gay. He said that she loves everyone and talked about how incredible she is and that she feels everyone is God's child. What a testimony that is to everyone who reads it! It really struck me when I read this interview that I had been predjudicial toward Leslie because I assumed that she would not react well if she found out because, after all, she was a Christian radio host. She couldn't possibly be an enlightented Christian, right? Well, shut my mouth. It was good to see that I was wrong.

If you care to read the article, there were other good tibits in it. It's found at:

December 20, 2007

More Local Action: Palm Beach County Bans Transgender Discrimination

From the Palm Beach County (FL) Human Rights Council:

At this morning's public hearing, the Palm Beach County Commissioners unanimously approved amendments to two county ordinances which will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on gender identity or expression.

Jeff Koons, Vice Chair of the Board of County Commissioners, had introduced the amendments to the County's Equal Employment Ordinance and Fair Housing Ordinance at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

"No one should be fired, harassed, or denied promotion simply because they don't fit the stereotypes for masculinity or femininity," Council President Rand Hoch told Koons.

The new law, which covers public and private employers with fifteen or more employees, and most real estate transactions, goes into effect on January 1.

"In a matter of days, all Palm Beach County residents will be judged on the quality of their work and will given an equal chance to succeed," said Hoch. "No longer will an employer be able to fire an employee solely because she is a woman with a masculine walk or he is a man with an effeminate voice."

With almost 1.3 million people, Palm Beach County will become one of the nation's largest jurisdictions to prohibit discrimination against transgender persons.

When the Palm Beach County ordinances take effect, close to 40% of the US population will live in jurisdictions where it is illegal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression.

Thirteen states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia have enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

In addition similar laws exist in more than 90 cities and counties across America.

In Florida, the cities of Gulfport, Key West, Lake Worth, Miami Beach and West Palm Beach, as well as Monroe County prohibit both public and private employers from discriminating based on gender identity or expression.

The cities of Largo, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors, as well as the Village of Tequesta protect their municipal employees from discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

The Gainesville City Commission is expected to adopt an ordinance early next year which will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on gender identity or expression.

Civil rights activists are also working in both Broward and Pinellas Counties to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

December 19, 2007

The Catholics Think I Am Committing a Moral Sin

No, really, they think I am doing some bad, bad stuff. There's this quote from the Roman Catholic Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt:

"Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity with a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin."

Well then, let's just move directly to Go, collect the $200, and then head straight to Hell. Not only GLBT but their allies, like me, are doomed.

Makes you wonder where all those gay priests fit into the scheme of things, especially those who don't stay celebate, but that's another post for another day.

Here is an excellent response to that statement by the Roman Catholic church by Ann Marie DeGroot, the executive director of OutFront Minnesota, an entire organization made up of people considered guilty of mortal sins.

I am careful to specify that this is the work of the Roman Catholics. I have run across some independent Catholic churches and smaller denominations with Catholic principles that are open and affirming, so let's not throw them under the bus.

You know, like the Roman Catholics did with us.

December 18, 2007

Taking Positive Action to Help GLBT Teens

I've posted several stories about troubled GLBT youth. Here's someone who is doing something to help them in Ogden, Utah.

It’s a busy night at Ogden’s OUTReach Resource Center for teens. The minute director Gary Horenkamp answers the telephone, 25 youngsters march into the drop-in center’s space at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden in search of something fun to do on a cold December night.

“That's a lot for the center. Usually we get about 10 or 12. Let's see... four or five are playing pool next door. Some are singing and dancing, a couple are playing the X-Box and I think arts and crafts are about to break out," says Horenkamp, designated this particular Wednesday for making Holiday decorations. “It looks like they’re making snowmen, wreaths, maybe some green and red stuff.” Seconds later, a teen wanders into Horenkamp’s office in search of a cheese grater.

“I’m guessing he wanted to make chili,” Horenkamp laughs. The center has many kitchen utensils and a lot of snacks for noshing, but unfortunately no grater, so the teen will have to try something else.

It’s all in a night’s work for Horenkamp, who has worked with the resource center since its founding in September, 2004.

As Horenkamp explains it, OUTReach, while not a religious program, was the brain child of the Unitarian Universalist church that houses it. Three years ago, the church’s social action committee decided that they wanted to provide a service for the city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens. Although a number of resources existed to serve Ogden’s 60,000 young people, such as The Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Youth Impact, Horenkamp said none at the time existed specifically for queer youngsters.

“Don’t get me wrong, the other organizations don’t discourage them from coming, but this is the place that is always in tune with their issues and needs,” he says.

Read more about this heartwarming story from Q Salt Lake.

December 17, 2007

Another Right Wing Writer Tells Gays What They Want

One of the great things about being a right-wing zealot is being granted the ability to know what everyone is thinking and what everyone's motivation is for their actions. The latest example of that is Baptist Press columnist Kelly Boggs, who is clearly exorcised that the Boy Scouts are losing their free rent of a city government-owned building in Philadelphia because of the organizations prejudice against gays. He writes in an article linked to by Good As You:

Homosexual activists do not want tolerance. They want to force groups, like the Boy Scouts, to accept and validate their lifestyle. If homosexuals and atheists are so opposed to the principles of the Boy Scouts, why don't they go and start their own scouting groups? Then they, as affirmed by the Supreme Court, can set their own membership rules.

Why do homosexual activists insist on attacking the Boy Scouts? It is a will to power. Either you embrace their lifestyle or they will make every effort to destroy your life and reputation. Thus far, the Scouts -- along with conservative Christian organizations and churches -- are one of the few groups to defy the activists’ demands.

Of course, it is actually the Boy Scouts who are not showing tolerance by refusing to allow gay boys to join, but that's not even the issue here. The matter of public funds subsidizing prejudice and exclusion of any group of people is actually the issue.

Yes, the Boy Scouts do have the right to homophobic policies if they want, and GLBT activists have the right to disagree with them. The Scouts, or any other organization that adopts bigoted practices, does NOT have the right to have their prejudice subsidized by taxpayers.

Right wing political organizations like the Southern Baptists (I remember when they used to be a religion, one which I belonged to for many years--I've come a long way, but sadly they have not) don't let the facts get in the way of trying to create, then play the victim card.

Fortunately, more and more people are becoming tired of hearing it, and I hope more municipalities like the city of Philadelphia stand up and stop supporting organizations that practice discrimination.

If you hit groups hard enough in the pocket book, they may have to take a different approach.

Ex-Ex-Gay Minister Tells His Story: It's Not Pretty

If you know of anyone who is struggling with their sexual orientation and considering going the "ex-gay" route, forward this story to them. It should make their blood run cold.

Scott Harrison desperately tried to change his sexual orientation in
various "ex-gay" ministries for eight years, three of them as a ministry leader
in Southern California. Most of his experience with ex-gay groups — Christian
organizations that see homosexuality as a choice that can be changed with proper
therapy — was with Living Waters and Desert Stream, two curricula of a national
ex-gay network that has more than 80 branches today. When Harrison joined in
1982, he felt ex-gay ministers were then a band of compassionate outsiders
attending to the first AIDS victims. But by the end of that decade, Harrison had
taken note of the movement's increasing radicalism, symbolized for him by the
minister at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in San Pedro, Calif., who
performed an exorcism on him in an attempt to cast out the "demons" said to be
the cause of his homosexuality. Harrison finally quit the movement in 1990 after
deciding he could, after all, reconcile his sexuality with his Christian faith.
Today, he speaks to parents of gay and lesbian children about the dangers he
sees in the ex-gay movement. Harrison says the relatively recent alignment of
Exodus International, one of the largest ex-gay groups with some 120 ministries
in North America alone, with anti-gay Christian "dominionists" — people who want
to impose Christian rules on the secular institutions of society — has led to
ex-gay ministers pursuing a hard-line message with young people that can only
end in mental anguish and failure.

Read more of this story at the Southern Poverty Law Center's website.

December 16, 2007

There's An Organization That Wants LESS Funding for AIDS Research

I've posted plenty of stories here discussing the need for people and legislators to move away from apathy and devote more funding to HIV/AIDS research, but to my disgust I actually ran across an organization devoted to REDUCING funding.

This group is called FAIR (Fair Allocation in Research), and the following information is from their website.

The group was founded by Dr Richard Darling

a California dentist, founded the FAIR Foundation after surviving hepatitis C, diabetes, cirrhosis and cancer of the liver, coma, heart attack, hepatorenal syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy (myasthenia gravis) and three liver transplant operations.

That's quite a list, one that is difficult to believe. He was motivated by the following:

In 1999 when Dr. Darling was becoming very ill yet again, he viewed an ABC network 20/20 segment by reporter John Stossel (a noted right-wing advocate) entitled “Disease Politics.” It was produced with facts supplied by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and graphically illustrated the unfair governmental bias that significantly favors AIDS over all other diseases, including the sixteen that kill more Americans than AIDS.

“Disease Politics” introduced a courageous Parkinson’s Disease patient, Joan Samuelson, and her unending efforts to get more funding for Parkinson’s Disease, which is grossly under funded by the NIH. Dr. Darling was so inspired by Ms. Samuelson’ fight for justice and John Stossel’s reporting that he vowed to start a national organization to correct the unfair NIH and Congressional allocation inequities if he was blessed with a third transplant. Dr. Darling received the “Gift of Life” and, thus, the FAIR Foundation was born.

A prime example of what they consider a funding "inequity" is included in the introduction on their website:

The favoritism given AIDS over all other diseases, including the sixteen diseases that kill a million more Americans than AIDS annually

Although further down on their home page they acknowledge that mortality rate should not be the only determining factor for research funding, those numbers appear to be the rationalization for their push to reroute funding from AIDS research.

Please understand, like most of you lives of people I love has been impacted by several of the 16 diseases that rank higher than the AIDS mortality rate, and the more resources that can be devoted to preventing and curing them the better.

It is clear to me that this effort is motivated by bigotry being disguised with statistics. From a Christian perspective, this is one way Satan uses people to do his work, disguising hate and prejudice in a way that it can become more presentable and palateable.

This hate must be met with a vigilant effort to reach out and love those who are impacted by the HIV/AIDS virus and the desire to prevent others from enduring this still deadly and debilitating disease.

Jesus reached out to the lepers and others considered socially unacceptable, and if we want to follow His example, we must do the same.

December 15, 2007

Homelessness A Major Problem for GLBT Youth in New York City

Youth who are struggling to understand their sexuality face a great challenge in our society, which becomes much more daunting if they don't have a roof over their heads and a bed to call their own.

In this report posted by PageOneQ, over 1/3 of homeless youth in New York City are GLBT--a grossly disproportionate number to their representation in the overall population. Especially as the holidays approach, if you are considering giving some of your time and/or money to a good cause, considering a group that assists these kids could be a good direction to go.

An estimated 3,800 people under age 24 go homeless each night in New York
City, but they blend in so well they are hard for social workers to find,
according to the city's first-ever census of homeless youth.

Three-fourths come from minority groups, with black youths accounting for
nearly half the total and Latino youths representing a quarter, said the survey,
released Friday.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual youths were especially vulnerable,
accounting for nearly a third of homeless cases.

"Young people who are homeless take great care to look like everyone
else. They're unbelievably creative in their ability to find ways to make it
look like they're not homeless at all," said Margo Hirsch, executive director of
the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services, which conducted the
survey for the city.

While many homeless youth found temporary shelter with a friend or a
relative, some 1,600 reported spending nights on the street, in an abandoned
building or in a bus or train.

Selling sex, another 150 spent nights with a clients.

The count was conducted in July and surveyed just under 1,000 youth who
were either homeless or at risk for homelessness.

Earlier this year, the New York City Department of Homeless Services
reported that 3,755 New Yorkers of all ages, out of a total population of 8.2
million people, were living without shelter on any given night, down from 4,395
in 2005.

December 14, 2007

Rick Warren: Church "Here to Stay" On AIDS Ministry

Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, is best known for writing "The Purpose Driven Life" (worth reading if you're one of the handful people that haven't done so), but if he's not careful, he could eventually be at least as well known for mobilizing evangelicals into AIDS activism.

Here's a report from Ethics Daily:

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, speaking Wednesday at a White
House discussion on HIV/AIDS, said the church has been a latecomer to addressing
the pandemic but is now "here to stay."

"The church was late to the table on this issue and we have repented of
that, but we are here to stay," he said. "This is not flavor of the week for me.
This is a long-term battle, the eradication of HIV/AIDS."

Warren and his wife, Kay, recently co-hosted an AIDS summit at their Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. They traveled to Washington to join more than 130
ambassadors, federal officials and ministry leaders for a roundtable discussion
hosted by the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

Speakers cited examples of international and national partnerships
between faith-based groups, businesses and governments to work on prevention and treatment of AIDS and urged continued efforts to reduce the stigma some attach
to the disease.

"This is a problem that demands our attention, and the local church is among the actors making a big difference," said Jay Hein, director of the White House faith-based office.

Marty McGeein, the executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on AIDS, said groups like the Salvation Army and Esperanza, a Hispanic faith-based organization, are working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on HIV prevention.

"We need faith leaders to address the stigma that continues to allow HIV to spread," said McGeein, a deputy assistant secretary at HHS.

Dr. Adnan Hammad, director of the ACCESS Community Health & Research Center in Dearborn, Mich., said leaders have to go through a "journey" with religious officials to help them come to a point where they can address the AIDS crisis. Once, he said, mosques burned fliers about AIDS that were left in their buildings.

"Now we screen for HIV in our local mosques," he said.

December 13, 2007

European Leaders Sign on For Gay Rights

Surprisingly, Great Britian was one of the nations that did not sign this European Union treaty. Here is the story from

The European Union has become the first international body to have a treaty
containing explicit language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of signed Wednesday at a ceremony in
Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament.

Parliamentary President Hans-Gert Poettering, European Commission President
Jose Manuel Barroso, and the current head of the Council of EU member
states, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates put their signatures to the
document amid cheers from some member states and jeers from others.

Britain and Poland had wanted the charter put to a referendum and have
refused to sign onto the document.

The Charter brings together into a single document all of the separate EU
laws and regulations on human-rights but despite the fanfare it has no legal
force. That will only happen when the parliaments of all 27 member states
ratify a concord called the Lisbon Treaty that reforms the way the EU

The International Lesbian and Gay Association - Europe hailed the Charter
on Wednesday and urged member states to ratify the Lisbon Treaty saying that the
document will advance the rights of LGBT people throughout Europe.

“While welcoming the first ever international treaty containing an explicit
ban on sexual orientation discrimination, we are disappointed by the decision of
the UK and Polish governments to opt out of their duty to provide their citizens
with the same rights as the rest of EU citizens," said Patricia Prendiville,
Executive Director of ILGA-Europe.

"While the reasons for not ratifying the Charter are different in both
countries, we believe the lack of unanimity among the EU member states weakens
the strength and authority of this significant document.“

The dissident government could still hold national referendums on the
Charter. Even so, they have negotiated an opt out clause that could be
used to negate some of the Charter's rights.

December 12, 2007

Help for GLBT Victims of Domestic Abuse

According to Galop, about one in ever four LGBT people will experience domestic abuse of a sexual, emotional, financial or physical nature.

One in four? Wow, that's disturbing! I hope I'm not being naive expressing my surprise at that statistic, according to this report from the London organization, included in this story at PinkNews.

Victims of sexual abuse can now find help at Galop, a safety charity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

A new caseworker at the London-based charity is available to help LGBT victims of sexual violence make anonymous reports to the police and provide them with advice.

According to the caseworker, Jamey Fisher, the aim of the service is to "help LGBT people who have experienced sexual abuse at any point in their lives."

Ms Fisher can also provide information about other services which offer support to those suffering from sexual abuse.

These include the Metropolitan Police LGBT Liaison Officers, Sapphire Units - teams of police officers that investigate sexual crimes and look after victims - and Sexual Assault Referral Centres.

All of these centres employ fully trained staff to work with LGBT people and reports of sexual abuse are always taken seriously, even if the abuse happened in the past.

Galop can also offer help to individuals experiencing violence from partners or members of their family.

According to Galop, about one in ever four LGBT people will experience domestic abuse of a sexual, emotional, financial or physical nature.

Galop's caseworkers are able to help victims of violence make a safety plan, speak to police and determine way to keep themselves safe.

The charity is also able to take reports of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes and sexual abuse and pass them onto the police through a third party reporting scheme.

In this way, victims are not obliged to speak to the police or give out any personal details in order for incidents to be recorded and investigated.

"What is most important right now is to get the word out so that we can help as many people as possible," said Ms Fisher.

To contact Galop for help you can called the Shoutline on 020 7704 2040 or fill in an anonymous reporting form on their site.

For more information about Galop please visit

Attitudes Changing in Scotland

Good progress is being made in changing attitudes in Scotland, as views are moving steadily toward acceptance of GLBT people.

From PinkNews:

Results from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey which show the country is becoming more accepting of the LGBT community were announced this morning.

The survey, conducted for the Scottish Government, found that the number of people who think same-sex relationships are always or mostly wrong has dropped 11% since 2002 to 30%.

65% of people who took part think Scotland should do everything it can to tackle all kinds of prejudice.

There has been an 8% drop in the number of people who think people of the same sex should not have the right to marry, to 21%, and a 7% drop in the number who think gay and lesbian people are not suitable to be primary school teachers, to 21%.

However, considerable prejudice remains, especially against transsexual people.

There's still work to be done, but progress is being made.

December 11, 2007

Acting Locally

Last week, in my rant about the failure of the hate crimes bill to make it through Congress, I shared my thought that effective change would have to come from grass roots efforts at the local level. This story in a press release from Equality Maryland is a good example of that:

Just one month before the Maryland General Assembly convenes in Annapolis to debate the issue of civil marriage for same-sex couples, another Maryland jurisdiction has passed a resolution calling on legislators to enact The Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Protection Act. The town of Kensington joins the city of Takoma Park in formally supporting the expansion of civil marriage to include same-sex couples. The Council unanimously passed the resolution at its Monday meeting.

"The Town Council and I support this resolution because it is time to end the hardships faced by same-sex couples in Kensington and in Maryland who are legal strangers to one another," said Mayor Peter Fosselman. "We are proud to join other communities around the state and country who have expressed support for the freedom to marry, and hope Annapolis lawmakers will act swiftly in 2008 to pass marriage equality legislation."

"I think it's enormously significant for an entire community of individuals to come together and stand up for the freedom to marry," said Executive Director Dan Furmansky. "More and more Marylanders understand that the time to expand the freedom to marry is now, so loving same-sex couples may inherit one another's social security, make medical decisions for one another, inherit properly without crippling tax penalties, and provide for their children two parents with a legalized relationship."

Obviously this action is not legally binding in any way, but I'm sure the state legislators from that jurisdiction noticed.

An Unlikely Ally

There are a lot of things one might expect a Christian man who is married, a father of seven, and a lifelong Republican to do, but filing suit to get his state's ban against same-sex marriage declared unconstitutional is not one of them. However, that is exactly Bill McKoskey, a political science instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (by gosh), it doing these days.

From Box Turtle Bulletin:

Q: You’ve described yourself as a Christian, straight, married, father of
seven. You’re kind of an unlikely figure to be leading the charge on gay

A: I’ve also been a Republican all my life, and people have said,
that’s certainly a conflict but I don’t think so. The reason I don’t is because
it’s consistent with my view of human dignity and human rights as opposed to
government and the power of government. This is really an overreaching

Q: What was your motivation to file suit?

A: I thought it was horrible when it first came out, because of the
implication of the precedent that it sets. If you don’t like gay people, who’s
next? Short people? Or maybe we can go back to black people or to Jews or
something. As a student of history and as an educated person, I know the history
and the implications of that mind-set. It began with that. I also have a gay
daughter. People have asked me, would you have filed this suit if it wasn’t for
your daughter? To be real honest, maybe not. Maybe I would have just ranted and
raved in my classrooms and written letters to the editor and fumed off to the
side. But because of her, it also became a personal issue and I feel like I’m
fighting for my kid. I’m a family man above all.

December 10, 2007

First U. S. Episcopal Diocese Breaks With the Church

It appeared this was only a matter of time. Now the legal hassles and speculation about other dioceses to follow will begin in earnest, leaving a lot less time for worshiping God.

From the Washington Blade:

The conservative Diocese of San Joaquin voted Saturday to split from the
liberal-leaning Episcopal Church, becoming the first full diocese to secede from
the denomination in the debate over the Bible and homosexuality.

Clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin voted 173-22
at their annual convention to remove all references to the national church from
the diocese's constitution, said the Rev. Van McCalister, a diocesan spokesman.

The diocese, based in Fresno, plans to align with the like-minded Anglican
Province of the Southern Cone, based in South America.

The decision is almost certain to spark a court fight over control of the
diocese's multimillion-dollar real estate holdings and other assets.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. member of the global Anglican Communion, a
77 million-member fellowship that traces its roots to the Church of England.

Anglicans have been moving toward a worldwide schism since 2003, when the
Episcopal Church consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of
New Hampshire. San Joaquin is also one of the three Episcopal dioceses that will
not ordain women.

The Episcopal rift over theology began decades ago and is now focused on
whether the Bible condemns gay relationships.

"We have leadership in the Episcopal Church that has drastically and
radically changed directions," McCalister said. "They have pulled the rug out
from under us. They've started teaching something very different, something very
new and novel, and it's impossible for us to follow a leadership that has so
drastically reinvented itself."

Episcopal and Anglican advocates for accepting gay relationships say they
are guided by biblical teachings on social justice and tolerance.
Traditionalists believe that gay relationships violate Scripture.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, elected last year as the first
woman to lead the church, had warned San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield
against secession but did not outline specific consequences. Jefferts Schori
supports ordaining partnered gays and lesbians.

"We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the
historical Anglican
understanding of comprehensiveness," she said in a statement after the
vote. "We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey."

Clergy delegates at the convention voted 70-12 to break away and lay
delegates voted 103-10 in support of the move. The outcome leaves in question
the status of the five or so parishes in the San Joaquin diocese that wish to
remain aligned with the Episcopal Church. Local clergy who agree to leave could
lose their ministerial credentials and their pensions.

Jefferts Schori indicated in her statement that the national denomination
will not give up the diocese. "The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese
of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership," she said.

The diocese serves about 8,500 parishioners in 47 congregations in central
Nancy Key, a member of Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fresno
and co-founder of Remain Episcopal, which fought the secession, said she was
"very disappointed."

"This has been threatening to split our diocese apart for a long time," she
said. "We feel like what we want to do is follow Christ, who included all, and
used all of us for his ministry. And that didn't happen today."

The Episcopal Church was divided along North-South lines during the Civil
War, as several other Protestant groups were, but the denomination was not
considered formally split over theological differences, making San Joaquin the
first full Episcopal diocese to break away.

Nationally, about 55 conservative Episcopal parishes, out of more than
7,000 around the country, have split off from the church in the last few years,
and some have affiliated directly with Anglican provinces overseas, according to
national church statistics. Courts have mostly ruled against allowing the
breakaway congregations to take their property when they go.

Three other dioceses have taken initial steps toward splitting from the
U.S. church. They are Fort Worth, Texas; Quincy, Ill.; and Pittsburgh.

In his address to the convention, Schofield said the vote was "all about

"It is about freedom to remain who we are in Christ. It is freedom to honor
the authority of Scripture," he said. "It is freedom to worship with the Prayer
Book we know and freedom from innovations and services that are contrary to the
Word of God."

Do You Want Someone Like This to be President?

How would you like it if the President of the United States had said this:

"I agree with the leadership of our military, who believe it is not in the best interest of the armed forces to have homosexuals serving on active duty," he said at the time. "I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherently illegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government. I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

Don't care much for that? Then you'll just hate this quote about HIV from the same person:

"It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population," Huckabee said during the same interview. "This deadly disease, for which there is no cure, is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents. If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague."

Both of these quotes are attributed to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee by the organization People for the American Way and reported by PageOneQ. To be fair, both of these quotes go back to 1992, but as naive as I was to GLBT issues back then, I still new better than that, and I hardly consider myself qualified to be president, then or now.

Neither is Mike Huckabee, yet he is moving up in most polls among Republican candiates, which says a lot (none of it good) about the right wing of the party, which is apparently still breathing.

A judgemental, pious homophobe can't get elected president, can he? At least not again?

Here is more on Huckabee from the PFAW. It doesn't get any prettier.

December 09, 2007

Politically, It's Not All About Equality

That's what this new survey of GBLT voters came up with. Rather than be single issue voters focused strictly on equality (more important to lesbian respondents than gay male ones), GLBT voters, surprise, surprise, are just like everyone else and share deep concerns about the economy, the war in Iraq, and the other important issues that affect day-to-day life in the United States.

Perhaps some of the right-wing voters who fail to look beyond a candidates stances on gay marriage and abortion, could learn something from that approach.

A new poll is offering an unprecedented look at the political leanings and
priorities of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.

The poll, funded by Human Rights Campaign and controlled by City
University of New York’s Hunter College, found the 768 gays, lesbians and
bisexuals who responded care strongly about securing new civil rights and

But the poll, conducted Nov. 15-26 and released last week, shows
respondents care just as much politically about the economy, health care and

Ken Sherrill, a Hunter College political science professor who is gay and
helping to analyze the poll’s results, said the politically diverse interests
are understandable.

“They’re citizens of the United States,” he said. “The country’s at war,
the economy is in the toilet, the health care system is in crisis. It’s not as
if we’re dealing with a single issue.”

About 25 percent of respondents said “the economy and jobs” is the issue
“most important” to their 2008 presidential vote. Another 24 percent chose
“health care” and 18 percent put Iraq as their top concern. Others chose “taxes
and government spending” or “the environment and global warming.”

When later allowed to choose gay, lesbian and bisexual rights, about 21
percent of respondents made that their top issue.

Such concerns, while generally shared by gays, lesbians and bisexuals,
varied by each group.

Click on the link above to read more details.

December 08, 2007

How Dangerous is it to be Gay in Iran?

According to this story, very. The government was so eager to do this poor man in that they ignored the few laws they had on the books that would have offered him any protection at all. I'm posting an excerpt here, and there's more detail in the Gay City News story I've linked.

The Islamic Republic of Iran murdered Makwan Moloudzadeh, a lad of 21, on
the cold morning of December 5. Makwan was dragged at dawn from his jail cell in
the Kermanshah Central Prison and hanged in secret within the prison, without
the required presence of his lawyer and family, for the so-called "crime" of
having had anal sexual relations, which the authorities claimed was rape, with
boys of his own age eight years ago, when he was 13.

Given witness recantings during his trial, it is impossible to know what,
if in fact anything, actually transpired.

Amnesty International released a statement denouncing the execution as a
"mockery of justice." The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission's executive director, Paula Ettelbrick, said in a statement, "This is
a shameful and outrageous travesty of justice and international human rights
law. How many more young Iranians have to die before the international community
takes action?"

December 07, 2007

Rhode Island Clergy Supporting Same-Sex Marriage

From the Providence Journal:

Religious leaders from several denominations reaffirmed their support for
same-gender marriage today and announced an advertising campaign intended to get
that word out and to dispel any impression that religion doesn’t support the
policy change.

"We wanted to make the point that there are religious folks who are in
favor of same-gender marriage," said the Rev. Eugene T. Dyszlewski, pastor of
the Riverside Congregational United Church of Christ and chairman of the Rhode
Island Religious Coalition for Same-Gender Marriage.

"It’s a different kind of pulpit," Dyszlewski said of the advertising
campaign. "We want to put a public face on it."

A dozen religious leaders and supporters showed off their signs on buses at
the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority headquarters on Elmwood Avenue this
afternoon. The advertisements will run on 10 RIPTA buses for a month, the agency
said. The advertisements depict two dozen religious leaders and carry the
message, "Rhode Island Religious Leaders Supporting Same-Gender

He and other religious leaders said that they wanted to dispel any
impression that religion opposes same-sex marriage and is "anti-gay."

"That’s not true," he said.

More than 100 Rhode Island religious leaders from several denominations
have signed a declaration in favor of permitting same-gender marriage, he

What is troubling are some of the comments at the end of the story. If they are anywhere near an accurate cross-section of opinions in the state, that could be one ugly battle.

December 06, 2007

Congress Lets GLBT Community Down.....Again

Posted on Street Prophets

The hate crimes bill is dead for this congressional session, being dropped by the Democratic "leadership" of the House. There will likely be no attempt to provide legal protection for the GLBT community from hate crimes until the 2009 legislative session since Congress surely does not have the courage to take up such a sensitive matter in an election year.

Here is the CNN report.

I backed the Democrats after they bailed on transgender people when they were dropped from ENDA (the Employer Non-Discrimination Act), supporting their strategy of at least passing something for GLB people, but they completely screwed the hate crimes bill up and helped no one in the process.

I didn't have expectations nearly as high as some folks when the Democrats regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections, but I didn't think they would show such imcompetence and cowardness either. The "leadership" has made a lot of noise but delivered little of consequence in nearly a year of power, and I see no reason to believe anything will change before the 2008 election, if at all.

The pervasive attitude in both houses of Congress seems to be a desire to obtain power, then do whatever it takes to keep it. There is a diminishing emphasis on doing what is right, replaced by obeying the results of polls and focus groups, positioning for the best sound bites and controlling news cycles. Protecting the rights and needs of minorities like the GLBT community from the tyrany of the majority does not even show up on the radar of far too many senators and representatives.

As I have studied the politicial landscape in regards to the GLBT community and their struggle for equality over the last 2 1/2 years, it has becoming clear to me that issues like same-sex marriage, employment non-discrimination, and hate crimes protection, must be gained at the local, grass-roots levels. There are still people in local and state legislatures that actually care about people and work to make their city/county/state a better place to live. A politician has less to lose at that level, making it easier for them to deal with issues of right and wrong vs. political expediency. There are people in these legislative bodies, such as where I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, that will work toward truly equal rights for all and protect minorities that can not protect themselves.

I believe advocates need to spend their time and resources in this fertle political field. Regional groups like Equality Maryland, with support from national organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, can get things done in some regions, which is clearly not a realistic possibility in the halls of Congress.

Can these national organizations, especially the HRC, eat a bit of humble pie and work more at the grass roots levels? Instead of trying to reel in the big fish, can they be content going after some smaller ones, focusing on smaller but very attainable rewards? I hope so. If something consistently doesn't work, good leadership changes tactics and seeks a more effective approach.

While I'm not a politician or professional advocate, I do have a passionate belief in the rights of the GLBT community. That passion leads me to believe that our national and regional advocacy organizations need to table their own agendas and recent hurt feelings to work together for the good of those who they are advocating for. I think the approach I suggest is worth their consideration.

While they are working on changing laws, members of the GLBT community and their allies need to work on changing hearts. Whether it be by writing a blog, sharing your story to educate potential allies, or just living a life that can be consiered worth emulating, everyone can play a role in moving toward GLBT equality.

AIDS Numbers Under Review

Amid suspicion by advocates and concerns about the issue being politicized, it is expected that the statistics for people newly infected with the AIDS virus will be significantly revised--upward.

Advocacy groups say new government estimates will show at least 35 percent
more Americans are infected with the AIDS virus each year than the government
has been reporting.

Government officials acknowledge they are revising the estimate, which they
say is not yet complete.

But advocates are pushing for the government to release the number now.
They say the delay may be partly political, and that it's hurting prevention

"Across the AIDS community, there is an incredible amount of suspicion,"
said Julie Davids, executive director of the advocacy group Community HIV/AIDS
Mobilization Project (CHAMP).

U.S. health officials have been estimating about 40,000 new HIV cases occur
in the nation each year. However, at a national HIV prevention conference in
Atlanta this week, advocates claimed the new estimate is 55,000 or

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the numbers are
being reviewed for accuracy and won't be released until early next year.

December 05, 2007

Measuring Up

I'm delighted to tell you that I will be a regular (roughly once a week) contributor to the new Family Equality Council Blog. Former known as Family Pride, the organization has rebranded itself and now has some heavy hitters contributing to its new blog. Here's my first one:

I had an experience a few years ago while seeking a new job that readers here can probably relate to. I went to one of these executive placement agencies, fancying myself in that type of position, and discussed wanting to be in better position to take care of my family.

The interviewer said, “Family?” I said “Yes, my wife and mother-in-law.” I’ll never forget the total disdain I saw in his expression as he just looked at me for a moment, then moved along with pitching what he could do for me. I didn’t need someone to validate me or my family, but I sure wasn’t going to work with anyone who viewed me as somewhat beneath his standards of success, I suppose because we didn’t have kids. I just didn’t measure up to whatever this man was looking for, so as Jesus told His disciples when they weren’t well received in a town, I shook the dust off my sandals and moved to the next stop on my journey.

This was nothing compared to what many GLBT families have to face on a regular basis. I merely had to sit across the desk from someone who looked down at me. GLBT families have to deal with that kind of attitude from our society as a whole.

Click here to read the rest of the essay.

Are Gays Taking Over Kentucky?

Not quite yet, but the growth of the openly gay population in Kentucky and other states is making its presence felt at a political force, especially in some conservative areas. This article from the Louisville Courier-Journal believes Governor Ernie Fletcher lost his recent re-election bid in part due to a nasty anti-gay element of his campaign.

New analyses of Census Bureau data suggest that this failed "gay card" strategy may in part be a result of a dramatically more visible lesbian and gay population in some of the most conservative parts of the country -- including Kentucky's largest city, Louisville.

Since 1990, the Census Bureau has tracked the presence of same-sex "unmarried partners," commonly understood to be lesbian and gay couples. From an initial count of about 145,000 same-sex couples in 1990, the 2006 data show that this population has increased fivefold to nearly 780,000 couples. The number of same-sex couples grew more than 21 times faster than did the U.S. population.

Louisville, now home to nearly 2,000 same-sex couples, serves as the bellwether for these changes in Kentucky. Since 2000, the city experienced the biggest percentage increases (151 percent) among the nation's 50 largest cities. As a result, its ranking among those cities for the percent of same-sex couples in the population has moved from 41st in 1990 to 28th in 2006.

While Louisville's increases in same-sex couples are consistent with those seen in other parts of the South, the reasons for the increase are a bit different. States in the upper South have experienced relatively modest population growth, suggesting that most of the increases in same-sex couples are likely a product of more gay visibility among natives, rather than a large-scale migration to the area. In contrast, Louisville has experienced above-average population increases that no doubt include an influx of gay people. Such changes are moving the social and political climate barometer (drawing on those ubiquitous red and blue maps) in a decidedly purple direction.

December 04, 2007

Is The Midwest Coming Around?

I found this article on a site recently at

You can read the entire article there, but here's a snip...

"The House of Representatives for the State of Illinois has a bill before them for consideration. The bill has a name. It is called “The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.” Why is it important and why should you care?"

You saw that correctly. The State of Illinois may become the 3rd state in the United States to allow Civil Unions for gay and lesbian people! Once more, what intrigued me about the name of the law is that they are including a clause in it that specifically states that religious institutions would not be required to recognize said Civil Unions or perform them against their religious traditions. Frankly, I think that is a given, but so many churches and religious right folks seem to use an argument when faced with civil unions that they don't want their church forced to hire us or perform ceremonies for us, etc. This way, the wording is in black and white. Why didn't we think of that before?

The final decision has been set for January 10, 2008. I'll be watching this one carefully. Having Massachusetts and Vermont in our corner was wonderful, but many folks in the "Heartland" see those states as being liberal. I think having a Midwest state rule that Civil Unions will be a legal way to recognize our relationships in the same way that marriage recognizes straight relationships will go a long way towards changing some attitudes. It seems like a promising turn of events.


Edition 2.6 of the International Carnival of Pozitivities is Online

The latest edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivities has been posted on and it includes a link to one of the posts from this blog.

As always, I encourage you to check it out and read the variety of posts included.

December 03, 2007

Another Church Struggling With the Place of Gays in Their Congregation

Ethics Daily reports on a controversy that threatens to tear apart a baptist church (considered moderate doctrinely) in Fort Worth, TX.

Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, planned to include a new pictorial directory as part of its 125th anniversary celebration. A wrinkle developed when gay couples asked to have their portraits included, setting off an internal church debate that went public in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story published Nov. 16.

The church scheduled a called business meeting after yesterday's worship service to decide whether to picture gay couples together, separately or--in a compromise
supported by members including Pastor Brent Younger--not to have individual and family pictures at all.

In his Sunday sermon at Broadway Baptist, Younger lamented the difficulty of finding consensus on an issue that is dividing many mainline churches.

"Some of the most committed conservative Christians in our congregation are baffled by this whole episode," Younger said. "They're seeking the best they know how to be faithful to Scripture and follow Jesus. They've been taught all of their lives what the Bible says on this issue, and those who read the Scriptures in a different way don't seem to be taking the Bible seriously. The verses in Leviticus seem straightforward on homosexuality. How can the majority opinion throughout 2,000 years of church history suddenly be wrong? It's hard for these gracious Christians to understand how anyone could disagree."

"But there are other thoughtful Christians who feel differently," he continued. "They are seeking the best they know how to be faithful to Scripture and follow Jesus. They know the Bible has been used to defend polygamy, slavery and the oppression of women. They look at the compassion of Jesus and the way he included everybody, and it seems clear that we should do the same. How can anyone who knows Jesus believe that God condemns people to the way they were born? It's hard for these gracious Christians to understand how anyone could disagree."

"Both sides feel so certain that any real compromise can feel like being asked to give up something close to the center of their faith," Younger said. "Many feel so strongly about this issue that a church directory in which gay couples are pictured together seems dishonest. And others feel just as strongly that a church directory in which gay couples are pictured separately seems dishonest."

"This predicament has left many feeling despair," he said. "When churches have a vote that may be divisive, it's hard not to feel like we'll all lose."

That last thought is one of the truest statements I've heard in a long time. At least is appears that some of the members of the church are honestly seeking God's will instead of pushing their individual agenda. We can only hope they will find it and reach a solution based on love that brings unity instead of divisiveness.

Two Different Views on the Fight Against AIDS

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu issued a statement during World AIDS Day on Saturday warning leaders not to be complacent about the AIDS crisis despite recent gains made.

“[T]oday still 70 percent of infected people don’t have access to life saving therapies,” noted Tutu.

“It is the time for compassionate leadership that recognizes that the voiceless are often those who suffer most,” he added. “[W]ho can they turn to if their leaders do not listen and heed their cries?”

Charles King, considered one of the leading AIDS activists, gave a speech on Saturday with a much different emphasis--Why has so much of the gay community walked away from this battle? From the Bilerico Project: There is much more than I am excerpting here that is worth checking out.

The sad and damning truth, my friends, is that while many of us merrily pop our pills every morning and go on with our lives as if the crisis had ended, we are still loosing that battle against the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the pandemic around the globe.

.....standing here as I am in San Francisco, pulsing with the heartbeat of Gay America, I’m moved to ask why so much of the gay community, my community, has given up on the fight against AIDS. I really don’t mean to give offense. And while I have been accused at times of being provocative, it’s a sincere question: Why has so much of the gay community walked away from the battle against AIDS?

For the vast majority of white gay men of even moderate income in the United States, AIDS ended as a crisis once the drugs came on line. We no longer had to watch our friends die or live ourselves in fear of the plague. In fact, whether because we headed prevention advice, or because we were just lucky, the statistics suggest that more than 75% of us are HIV negative. And because we often travel in packs that look like ourselves, AIDS for many of us is no longer even personal.

The reality is that AIDS is no longer so much a gay disease in the United States as it is a disease of race and poverty. And that brings to light a dirty secret about the organized and politically engaged gay community. We are overwhelmingly white and reasonably well-off, and our movement is almost exclusively about rights for ourselves and people like us.

I don’t believe it is just a coincidence that the larger gay and lesbian community walked of the battlefield when AIDS clearly became a Black disease. It was no longer us who was perceived to be dying. It was “other”, and other is always dispensable. Our use of the term “men who have sex with men” and the “down low” serve only to increase the distance. “They” don’t claim us, so we don’t have to claim them. But imagine how different the world would be if people like Harvey Milk hadn’t stood up for people like me when I was a young person growing up in south Texas, still lacking the courage to call myself gay.

It’s not just Black gay and bisexual men and trans people that we walk away from when we walk away from AIDS. We’ve also walked away from many gay white men too marginalized to make it into the life boat, and we have walked away from women and girls, mainly Black women and girls, and folk generally marginalized by the larger society in which we live. The truth is, that when our community turns its back on AIDS, we turn our back on the very idea of civil rights and social and economic justice being our cause.

The reality of AIDS is that it is caused by a virus; but that virus would not have created the pandemic that now exists if it were not fueled by homophobia, racism, and sexism. AIDS is a disease that persists as a consequence of economic and social marginalization and discrimination. Whether it was gay men and then Haitians in the 80’s, or sex workers and people addicted to injection drugs today, AIDS has been able to wreck its havoc because it has in the main taken the lives of people deemed expendable. And that is why AIDS continues to be the preeminent civil rights issue of our day, whether we want to own it or not.

December 02, 2007

A Reporter Gives Part of Himself In Coverage of AIDS Prevention

A southern African radio reporter went the extra mile last week when presenting a story about AIDS prevention. Apparently circumcision significantly reduces men's chances of contracting the AIDS virus, so reporter Kennedy Gondwe went through the circumcision process himself on live radio. This is an example I personally have no intent of following.

From the Washington Blade:

A southern African radio correspondent has been receiving a flood of text
messages and cell phone calls — some from offended listeners and readers.All
because Kennedy Gondwe chose to get circumcised to protect himself from AIDS,
and took the British Broadcasting Corp.'s radio and Web audience through the
procedure with him Friday.

A study published in the Lancet medical journal in February concluded that
the findings of three major trials — in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda — show
that circumcision can significantly reduce men's chances of contracting the
virus that causes AIDS. U.N. health agencies followed up with an endorsement,
but stressed that the procedure offers only partial protection and that
abstinence, condom use, having few partners and delaying the first sexual
experience are all among the steps that need to be encouraged.

Frank talk about AIDS and prevention methods, is still rare in Gondwe's
Zambia, where HIV prevalence is 16 percent. That's what made Gondwe's public
testimony Friday, the eve of World AIDS Day, even more striking.

A prominent Zambian journalist, Mildred Mpundu, died in November after
going public with her HIV-positive status earlier this year and urging her
fellow journalists to get tested.

Gondwe, who says he undergoes an AIDS test several times a year, said in an
interview Friday he finds it "sad" that more people don't talk about
circumcision as a prevention method.

"We as journalists also have a role to play in the fight against the
disease," he said.

Gondwe, on the radio piece and in an online diary Friday, recounts his Nov.
22 procedure. Listeners can hear him gasp as a doctor injects him with a local
anesthetic, but he assures them the procedure is otherwise painless. He was up,
walking to his car and driving himself home soon afterward.

Dr. Jan van den Ende, a microbiologist at Toga Laboratory, which provides
AIDS testing and counseling in neighboring South Africa, the country hardest hit
by AIDS, said it was not entirely clear why circumcision provides the protection
it does. He described it as a relatively simple and painless procedure,
something Gondwe's story demonstrated.

While one admiring Web reader from Zambia told Gondwe he would soon follow
his example, the reporter said others told him they were offended. Gondwe's
Tumbuka people of Zambia's Northern Province do not embrace circumcision, he

David Alnwick, a senior AIDS adviser to UNICEF based in Nairobi, said
UNICEF supports educating people that "circumcised men are relatively well
protected against HIV." But he said there was a danger of creating demand that
the world's poorest continent is not now prepared to meet.

Alnwick said Zambia has a long waiting list of men who want to be
circumcised and only a few centers providing the service. But he says he expects
governments to come aboard across the continent and international donors to
provide funding.

Data on Why the GLBT Community Needs More Hate Crime Protection

David Shelton, who writes the blog Skipping to the Piccolo, gave me a heads up on this post about the recently released Hate Crimes statistics released by the FBI. His post has a link to the actual report so check it out if you like, but here's an excellent excerpt.

For the first time in a major report, we've been given data that clearly
lists crimes that were committed based on a motivation of the victims' sexual
orientation. Unfortunately, gender identity isn't included in the data, but
rather is combined with the others. There were nearly 1500 incidents across the
country last year, including at least two right here in Clarksville. Unlike our
Hispanic/Latino neighbors, those of us that are gay or lesbian have absolutely
no protection whatsoever when it comes to hate crimes.

Some have said "show me how people are attacked because they're gay." Well,
we have that now. All of this goes on while the Matthew Shepard bill languishes
in a Senate committee, and is in jeopardy of being killed outright. For the
record, the Matthew Shepard bill is a bill that would provide federal resources
to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and would include sexual orientation
and gender identity in the list of hate crimes.

Now that we know there are real numbers, this should be a clear
indicator that it's time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to
non-discrimination clauses everywhere (including in Clarksville's new charter).
I've always been an advocate for complete equality, so this is just the right
thing to do. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been updated a few times since its
passing, and has since added age and disability to its protections. Several
states have added sexual orientation to their civil rights laws, and it's time
for Tennessee to do the same.

Many conservatives are afraid that such an addition would force churches to
hire gay people or would force a Christian landlord to allow two men to rent a
one-bedroom apartment they own. A person's religion has little to do with their
sexual orientation or their perceived sexual orientation. Some people won't hire
someone just because they might look a little effeminate. At the moment, that's
perfectly legal. It doesn't mean it's right.

Can someone please tell me what's "Christian" about denying a qualified
person a job, or kicking a couple out on the street because they might be gay?
"Well, it's behavior," some say. I tell you what. If you see someone having sex
on the job, then that's a different story. But seriously... how many of us
actually engage in sexual activity in the work place? That's just a rhetorical
question, by the way; I really don't want to know.

Let me be perfectly clear: By sexual orientation, I'm referring to whether
a person is sexually attracted to members of their own sex, and might engage in
healthy consenting relationships among adults. Gender identity disorder (GID) is
a legitimate diagnosis for persons who have the firm belief that they are the
wrong physical sex. Neither of these impacts on a person's ability to do their
job or to form healthy relationships. Interestingly, GID is the only
psychological disorder that has a proven cure: gender reassignment surgery and
hormone therapy.

No matter how we slice it or how we sugarcoat it with Bible verses or
doctrines, discrimination is wrong. Hate crimes are clearly committed against
people for their sexual orientation, and as of right now, there is zero federal
protection for them. Hate crimes aren't listed by how much someone hates another
group, but rather by their motivation in a crime they've committed. No one is
talking about "thought police." We simply need to have protections in place that
will allow local law enforcement agencies to prosecute and investigate properly
these incidents which are all-too-often swept under the rug.

December 01, 2007

More on World AIDS Day

Here are several stories I thought worth bringing to your attention since today is the worldwide day to bring awareness of AIDS to the forefront.

Can you believe 1/3 of Americans say they know little or nothing about AIDS? This report from the Christian Post talks about that.

The Christian Post also reports that Christians are stepping up their engagement in this global crisis. About time.

Newsweek reports on where candidates stand regarding fighting AIDS. Sounds like their position is mostly off to the side.

Newsweek also has a gallery showing an AIDS timeline.

President Bush visited Calvary United Methodist Church in Mount Airy, Maryland yesterday for a speech where he called for Congress to add $15 billion over the next five years to its funding for foreign prevention and treatment programs. As long as these programs emphasize abstenance, their effectiveness will be limited, but more funding can't be a totally bad thing.

I point this story out in part because I grew up in Mount Airy and later lived their for eight years. I was the best man for a wedding at that Calvary United Methodist, which was selected for Bush's visit because of volunteer work the church did over in Nambia last year. Their story is a wonderful example of the impact a local church can have on people's lives if they are willing to put others ahead of their own needs. I also dare say that the President's visit was the biggest thing to ever happen in Mount Airy, a town of about 7,000 people nestled between Baltimore and DC.

November 30, 2007

"We Must Not Tolerate Hate Crimes"

That's the title of a commentary in the Christian Science Monitor co-authored by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) in support of the Matthew Shepard Act (the Hate Crimes Bill).

The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act makes clear that victims of hate crimes based on their gender, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity should be protected under federal law.

The legislation also updates current law by removing the outdated requirement that a victim be engaging in one of a limited number of activities, such as traveling in interstate commerce, in order for the federal government to intervene. The legislation will also amend current law to cover crimes occurring in private residences, so that the federal government can investigate and prosecute hate crimes – regardless of where they occur.

The White House has threatened to veto this legislation, questioning Congress's constitutional authority to strengthen the federal hate crimes law. Prominent constitutional scholars disagree, because the pending legislation is clearly within the power that the Constitution grants to Congress and properly respects the principles of federalism. Claims that the bill will allow prosecutions of "hate speech" are also misleading. The act punishes violence that results in death or bodily injury, not speech. Nothing in the bill will trump any individual's right to free speech.

We urge the president to do the right thing and sign this measure into law. In doing so, he can send an important message that all victims of hate crimes should be protected, reinforcing our founding ideals of liberty and justice for all.

There are no special rights here as opponents like to claim, merely the enforcement of existing rights for another minority.

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day

Saturday, December 1 is World AIDS Day. There are many local events all over the world to commemorate it, check in your neighborhood to see what is going on around you.

Here is a link to the World AIDS Campaign's site that is a good overall resource. While we should be aware of the worldwide AIDS crisis everyday, these events are important to increase awareness among people who don't normally consider it.

November 29, 2007

One Way of Leveling the Playing Field

This is a story about a church in Minneapolis, MN that is considering a unique approach to the legal prohibition of marrying same-sex couples. They are ready to vote on the idea of not signing marriage certificates for opposite-sex couples either and would be the fourth chruch in that area to do so. I'm not sure I agree with their approach but I strongly support their motivataion, much more so than churches in Massachussetts that stopped performing legal weddings when same-sex marriage was legalized.

From the City Pages in Minneapolis:

On Sundays, the Saint Paul-Reformation Church often holds informal soup and
bread gatherings to discuss congregation business. It was at one of these
meetings about two years ago that Jim McGowan, a member for more than two
decades, proposed that the church stop marrying straight couples.

The church had long welcomed members of all sexual orientations—they had
even bucked local Lutheran leadership and ordained a lesbian pastor. But
McGowan, a straight man, nonetheless saw a subtle form of discrimination. If the
church couldn't legally marry gay couples, he argued, it shouldn't marry
straight ones either.

None of the 50 or so people present in the basement that Sunday stood up to
contradict McGowan's proposition. So today, Saint Paul-Reformation is in the
process of enacting a church ban on what he calls "the state's business" of
civil unions.

If the congregation does vote to abstain from civil marriage duties, the
church will still perform ceremonies for both straight and same-sex couples. The
only difference will be that heterosexual couples will have to take the extra
step of seeking out a judge to make their nuptials legal.

"We are looking at the function of our church in marriage ceremonies,"
says Anita Hill, a pastor at Saint Paul-Reformation. "Is it just to get it done
in a pretty place? We're not in the wedding business; we're in the blessing

More from Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker:

Imagine the impact same-sex couples and allies would have on churches if
they continuously insisted, through speaking out, picketing, and writing
letters, that they be married in those churches! Imagine the impact same-sex
couples would have if they and their allies continuously picketed marriage
license bureaus insisting that they be given the same right to marry as
heterosexual citizens.

As I've written many times before, marriage is crucial for full and equal
civil rights to accrue to Gay people, as once that right is approved, virtually
all other civil and sacramental rights will be won; the legitimacy of Gay people
will be recognized, with the conferring of dignity and full equality being part
and parcel of that legitimacy.

So, whether or not any Gay person wants to get married, it is imperative
that all Gay people and allies demand marriage rights, both for the well-being
of those who do want to marry, as well as for the realization of full and equal
civil and sacramental rights for all Gay people!